Sad about saying goodbye to your summer activities? As the days get cooler and nights get longer, it might be time to retire your summer routine and find a new way to spend your free time. With the perfect combination of cardio, competition, and community, the popular sport of pickleball can help keep your end-of-summer blues at bay.
After pickleball players Gary and Debbie Hellmann invited my friend Kim and me to play along with them one evening, I was quickly able to understand why pickleball is the nation’s fastest growing sport. Within minutes of playing, I knew the sport was a hobby I could enjoy on a regular basis – something stressed and overworked adults of all ages are often longing for.
Gary Hellmann, a pickleball enthusiast/fanatic, began playing the sport around five years ago after his neighbor invited him to play. Currently, Gary plays around three to four times per week for an average of two to three hours at a time. When playing alongside his wife Debbie, the Hellmann duo makes for an intimidating pickleball pair.
Gary initially assumed that pickleball would be a cakewalk for him, as he is well-versed in playing tennis and has a knack for hand-eye coordination. And while tennis and pickleball do overlap in many arenas, the concept of the “no-volley zone,” commonly referred to as the “kitchen” by pickleball players, made the sport more challenging than he initially expected. In the kitchen, players are prohibited from volleying the ball (or hitting the ball out of the air) and are only allowed to enter the zone to return a ball that bounces within the zone. Because of this rule, professional pickleball players often find themselves in a game of “dinking,” or lightly hitting the ball back and forth within the kitchen, until someone inevitably errs.
Unlike tennis, pickleball can be picked up fairly quickly by most novice players. Tennis often requires years of expensive private lessons to master, in addition to the pressure many tennis players feel to purchase the latest and greatest tennis gear and garb. Because pickleball carries a more lighthearted reputation, players can enjoy the thrill and fast-paced nature of the sport with a fraction of the financial burden. Additionally, volleying occurs much more frequently in pickleball than it occurs in most tennis singles matches, making it a riveting sport to watch.
Another advantage of picking up pickleball is the size of the pickleball itself. Being much larger than a standard table tennis ball, the pickleball is slightly slower and easier to spot (although just as bright). With pickleball courts being smaller in perimeter than standard tennis courts, senior players can still hustle for the ball without having to cover too much ground.
Lake Norman locals interested in playing pickleball can find numerous courts nearby. Founded in 2020, the Lake Norman Pickleball Association (LKNPA) advocates for new facilities and hosts social events, educational clinics, and competitive tournaments throughout the communities of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville, and Denver. New to the sport and not sure where to start? LKNPA encourages first-time pickleball players to attend their Introduction to Pickleball events held at 5:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month at Robbins Park in Cornelius. Attendees will learn the basic rules of the game, proper technique, and form. Pickleball paddles and balls will even be available to those who have yet to invest in equipment.
LKNPA members enjoy the benefits of club newsletters, access to member socials and tournaments, reserved court time, free and reduced rates for clinics, and a newfound group of friends. To join LKNPA, learn more about the organization, and stay updated on upcoming events and open play locations, visit www.lknpickleballassociation.com.