Pickleball — a game for any age

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, July 13, 2022

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When Michele Zoerb moved to Carter County from Arizona, little did she know that she was bringing something new to the area’s recreational offerings.
Zoerb had been involved heavily in pickleball in Arizona, and soon found herself working with Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains to introduce the sport to the Carter County area.
Since the first introduction course in July 2021, the sport has quickly caught on.
“We did one or two classes a month last year and got up to 100 players pretty quickly,” Zoerb said. “We have been taping floors and trying to find places to play … Everybody loves it and a lot of people have been here since the very beginning of the program, and we even had two new people walk in this morning.”
Pickleball is a racket/paddle sport created by combining elements of several other racket sports. The game was first played in Bainbridge Island, Wash., in 1965.
The equipment required to play the game is a plastic pickleball, composite or wooden paddle, and net. Rules are very simple for players as the ball must stay inbounds; there should be one bounce per side; serving is done at the baseline; the serve can’t land in the no-volley zone; and the game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points.
Zoerb says the game is very simple and most players pick it up very quickly. The game also has opened doors for people who have never played organized sports and for older players.
“Even with disabilities and physical limitations people can still play,” Zoerb said. “Grandparents can get out here and play with their grandchildren, and it is very family oriented, very welcoming, and very community minded. It’s unlike any other sport. I think a lot of people have gotten off the couch and come in here.
“A lot of these people come here three and four days a week for just the sense of community. A lot of them said it has changed their life. For some, it was the first time that they have enjoyed a sport and has kept them active. Because it is for all ages, it is really great for the community.”
Zoerb has already brought in pro pickleball player GiGi Lamaster from Arizona to host clinics for local players with plans of doing another pro clinic in the near future. “It was a great opportunity for the city of this size to play with GiGi,” said Zoerb. “She is an excellent instructor and I have trained with her for several years before I came here, so I knew her teaching style. Everybody that went to the clinic really loved it and got a lot out of it to help improve their game. It brought some other skills that some had never seen before.”
The league has hosted glow in the dark and round-robin tournaments to encourage participation as well. And while there is no charge to play in daily games at the rec center, participants do pay a fee to enter tournaments.
“We have had recent transplants from the Carolinas and they are showing up and playing pickleball here at the rec center,” Zoerb said. “I think the growth is unlimited. We just need some more facilities and courts. The appetite and interest here for it will really make it grow. It’s fun and addictive. Come out and play with us.”

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