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Pickleball offers fitness, fun; appeals to wide range of ages

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The No. 1 rule for playing pickleball is to have fun.

Also, do not question the legend of how the 50-year-old sport got its unusual name.

“The rumor, the cutest rumor, anyway, is that it is named after a cocker spaniel,” laughed Bob Hood, president of the Coosa Valley Pickleball Club.

The favorite tale is that when the game was started, a cocker spaniel named Pickles owned  by one of the men chased the ball constantly.

“That isn’t actually true,” admitted Hood. “But we’re going with that version.”

The sport is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It is played with paddles, a short, modified tennis net and a plastic ball. It can be played indoors and outdoors and by a wide range of ages.

“We have players ranging in age from 8 to 82,” Hood said.

Pickleball got started in Rome in January, he added.

“I went to the senior center and was talking to Tammy Bryant,” he explained. “I had been living in Utah and they had a pickleball team there. I thought it was a good sport for seniors and I mentioned it to Tammy.”

Bryant, who works for Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority at the Charles C. Parker Center at Etowah Park, told Hood that she had just found out that the authority did indeed have some pickleball equipment.

“We played our first game in the center in the banquet room,” Hood said. “Since then, we have been trying to get people involved.”

What started as 15 members has now grown to 50, he added, with new members showing up every time the group meets to play.

They now meet at the Thornton Recreation Center, 102 North Floyd Park Road, on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. The cost is $1 to play and everyone is welcome.

If anyone wants to play, they should simply show up at the Thornton Recreation Center during the game times.

“We coach you on your first visit and we have paddles and balls, so you don’t have to bring anything.” Hood said. “If you enjoy it so much you want to join the club, you pay $12 and you get a T-shirt, too, so it’s a pretty inexpensive sport.”

If someone wishes to buy paddles and balls, local stores carry them and they can also be ordered through the club or online. Prices of paddles range from $10 to $15 for wooden versions and graphite versions for $50.

“This is a great sport for seniors who have played tennis, but have maybe lost some mobility,” he said. “Also it is just fun and easy to learn. The courts are smaller than tennis and you play in pairs. It is similar to ping pong in that you have to be serving to get a point.”

Hood said he thinks the best points of the sport is that it is a way to socialize and get exercise.

“You’ll work up a sweat, but it isn’t exhausting,” he added.

He admits he also loves the “pop” of the ball hitting the paddle.

Jennifer Crisp, who is the secretary and treasurer of the Coosa Valley Pickleball Club, said she loves the sport because her whole family can play.

“My husband and my kids and I can all play,” she said. “It’s a good balance of exercise and fun.”

She said she got into it because of a family friend.

“She was visiting and I saw the paddles and asked what they were,” said Crisp. “She took me outside and showed me and I was hooked. I Googled the name and found out there was a group here. I’ve been playing with the club since March.”

The group is not only growing by leaps and bounds, they are planning a tournament in August, Hood added.

“On August 8 and 9, we are holding a tournament at Coosa Country Club,” said Hood. “It’s not too late to sign up. Call the country club and tell them you want to sign up.”

To sign up for the tournament, call Coosa Country Club, 110 Branham Ave., at 706-234-7131.

For more information, call Bryant at 706-234-0383.