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Overview

Pickleball is a simple paddle sport that the whole family can enjoy together, but that doesn't mean it doesn't take strategy to win. While pickleball borrows aspects from badminton, tennis and other paddle sports, its wooden paddles and Wiffle ball give it a unique dynamic that requires its own strategy.

General Strategy

Its more important to be precise than powerful in pickleball. Aim for an area from which your opponent will have difficulty returning, such as at his feet or bouncing right beside him. Step toward your target when hitting. Point your front shoulder in the target's direction, following though toward the target. Position yourself just as the ball contacts your opponent's paddle; you should never be moving when this happens. Keep your paddle in front of your body, your feet at shoulder width and moving side to side on your toes. Notice which player on your opponent's team is the weakest and where he has the most difficulty shooting from, and exploit it by aiming for this area. Anticipate your opponent's out balls.

Gripping The Paddle

In the the continental grip, put the space between your thumb and index finger on top of the handle when the face of the paddle is to the side rather than facing up or down. You execute the volley, serve overhead and ground strokes using the continental grip. You can use wristbands and tennis overgrips for your paddle handle to keep your grip dry during warm days.

Serving

As with other shots, you should not hit serves too hard at the expense of precision. When in doubt, attempt the deep serve, which is more difficult to return. Serving toward your opponent's backhand also increases the difficulty of a quality return. After you complete your serve, take a step behind the baseline so that the ball will have to land in front of you and not at your feet. This also gives you a better perspective on whether the return is going out.

Returning

Return deep, slowly and low to the opponent's backhand when possible. Most importantly, avoid hitting the ball out of bounds or at the net, surrendering points. Try to position yourself at the net when returning, which will help you make easier shots. Don't return short when near the net, though, which could leave you open to a dink or power shot.

The Volley

When hitting a volley, keep your head and eyes behind the ball at ball height. Keep your elbow in tight in front of your hip with the paddle head above your wrist. Don't drop the head of the paddle during low shots. Instead, bend your knees to get low while keeping your eyes on the ball.

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Laugh if you must,

but pickleball is serious business for local ambassadors of the game

Just saying the word pickleball aloud could emit laughter from all corners of a room.

It's a funny word, yes, but it's no laughing matter for loads of players around the country.

Just ask Grand Rapids residents John and Jeanne Schowalter, local pickleball ambassadors who will demonstrate the sport they picked up a few years ago in Surprise, Ariz.

"I think the sport probably would have grown quicker if they hadn't named it that. It sounds like a children's game," said John Schowalter, a retired auctioneer from Kalamazoo. "Some people in Washington named the sport after their dog Pickles."

The pair will join Dick Draigh and representatives from the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department for a pickleball demonstration 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Belknap Park tennis courts, 30 Coldbrook St. NE. Another demonstration will be held at the same time and place June 17.

"Some people just encouraged us to give it a try. We did, and we liked it," Schowalter said. "One of the reasons we like it is because it's competitive, yet social, where people just really have a lot of fun playing it.

"Pickleball is more verbal, more noisy than tennis. It's a very social game. Most people that start playing it get addicted. You build a community relationship."

Schowalter, 63, said the RV park near Phoenix where they stay in the winter now has 80 pickleball players.

"It's an extremely fast-growing sport in the adult community, but is now being taught in junior high and high school," he said. "Some RV parks have up to 600 players.

PICKLEBALL
Play area: A badminton-size court (20-by-44 feet) with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center.

Equipment: Perforated plastic baseball, similar to a Wiffle ball, and wood, composite or graphite paddles.

Cost: Balls are $25 per dozen, and paddles are $30 to $75.

Players: Singles or doubles

Scoring: First team to 11 points, leading by two, wins. Points only scored while serving. Each player gets one underhand serve and continues until the opponent breaks serve. Each serve must bounce once in the opposing court, and the return must bounce once. After that, the ball may be hit from the air.
"We have people that are 85 playing it in our RV park, but we're trying to get the younger people involved.

Schowalter, who gave up golf for pickleball, said tennis players convert to the sport well.

"Anybody that ever had a racket in their hand," he said. "We're finding that more and more young people are playing it. It's a great sport because you don't have to invest a whole lot of money and equipment."

Schowalter, who plays every day while living in Arizona and several days a week in Michigan, said pickleball has done wonders for his 42-year marriage.

"We're really blessed because we can play together," said Schowalter, who plays several doubles tournaments each year with his wife. "A lot of couples won't play with their spouses because it just doesn't work. It's really good character building  and helps your marriage to do something like this.

"I learned to quit coaching her while we play and to stay out of her way. That translates into the way you relate in your daily life, too."

Plus, the injuries are rare, Schowalter said.

"You have to play within yourself," he said. "There are very few injuries in the sport. Once in a while, you'll see a pulled muscle, but it's pretty rare.

"There isn't a lot of long stretch running. The injuries mostly occur when a person goes for a shot they're physically not able to get."

John Judnich, recreation supervisor for the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, said staffers are introducing the sport to the community in hopes of forming a fall league.

"There are some communities in West Michigan that have pickleball, but we're hoping to bring it to Grand Rapids," Judnich said. "We're interested because it hits all age groups. I think there's a potential for it to be a growing activity."


Article provided by: Cris Greer / Grand Rapids Press

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Myrtle Beach celebrates
International Pickleball Week

A new sport is becoming quite popular.

And Myrtle Beach city leaders and media personalities took their crack at it Tuesday at Pepper Geddings recreation center.

It's pickleball!

It's kind of a mix between badmitton and tennis, suitable for all ages and fitness levels.... even our Ed Piotrowski. He participated in the tournament.

Myrtle Beach has a bunch of regular players at its fitness centers and it wanted to let more people know about it.

Pickleball player Anthony Marraccino tells NewsChannel 15, "Its a fun game. It's the easiest game there is to learn. Almost anybody can play and learn this game in a half-hour or hour."

Myrtle Beach put on Tuesday's tournament as part of International Pickleball Week.

- article as posted on CarolinaLive.com
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