Gallery: A game for the masses
Published 3:20 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Pickleball enthusiasts meet at Academy Park 6 days a week
The sport of pickleball is gaining steam in Albert Lea.
Terry Adams and fellow organizer John Bauernfeind began playing pickleball in Albert Lea last year with about five people. Participation blossomed to about 40 people this year, Adams estimated.
Email newsletter signup
The game is played with two or four players, a plastic paddle, a plastic wiffleball and a net mounted two inches lower than a tennis court net.
“Pickleball is a combination of tennis and ping-pong that’s played on a badminton-sized court,” Adams said.
Unlike some matches in tennis, games last about 10 to 15 minutes, Bauernfeind said.
“It’s a fast-paced game, but it’s on a small court, so you’re not running like crazy,” he said.
Other than the legend of a dog named Pickles that would retrieve balls that flew off the court, pickles and pickleball are unrelated, Adams said.
“The name hurts the sport a little bit,” he said. “But we’ve found that every time a person plays it, they get hooked.”
Larry Knutson began playing the sport about two months ago, and he’s seldom put his paddle down. He plays five to seven days a week for two to six hours at a time, he said.
Knutson has diabetes and visits a physician for a checkup every six months. After playing pickleball, he showed so much improvement that his doctor cut a pill from his diabetes medication after his last visit.
“My bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein score) went down 23 points and my good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein score) went up eight points, and I’ve lost 14 pounds,” Knutson said. “The only thing I’ve done differently is that I’ve played pickleball a lot,” he said.
In addition to the benefits of exercise, pickleball player Gail Levorson said the sport’s community drew her to the sport.
“Everyone is very welcoming, so it’s a very nice group to be involved with,” she said. “You’re included no matter what level you play, and I really like that.”
Sportsmanship is important to the players.
“It’s competitive but friendly,” Knutson said.
The group plays outside on the ice-skating rink at Academy Park on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 a.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.
“It crosses all age groups with men and women. We have people from 22 to 73 years-old playing,” Adams said. “We’ve got teachers, we’ve got preachers, we’ve got farmers, we’ve got retired people, we’ve got young people. It’s the whole ball of wax.”
Bauernfeind said the group has also played at the Albert Lea Family Y, and the Albert Lea City Arena.
Nets at Academy Park along with extra paddles were provided with a grant from the Family Y. Adams said he has been working with the city to make six to seven full-time pickleball courts, so tournaments could be held in Albert Lea.