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Pickleball Lovers Can Now Unite In Laguna Niguel

Just what is pickleball and why is the sport sparking such a buzz in Laguna Niguel?

A large contingent of pickleball enthusiasts attended a  meeting to support the building of new courts at The City Council approved the construction and is now making plans to move forward with the newly refurbished pickleball courts at Crown Valley Elementary.

But just what is pickleball and why is it creating so much excitement in the community? Laguna Niguel Patch interviewed Terri Smith, who is co-USAPA Ambassador to South Orange County and Saddleback Valley with her husband Bill, to find out more.

Laguna Niguel Patch: What Exactly Is Pickleball?

Terri Smith: Pickleball is a tennis-like game played on a badminton-sized court with a ping pong-like paddle and a hollow whiffle ball. The net is 2 inches lower than a tennis net. It's a gender neutral game since women and men can provide competitive games playing with and against each other. And it's also an age-friendly game; men and women enjoy playing the sport into their 80s. Our number one rule is to have FUN!

Patch: How did you become "Pickleball Ambassadors?"

Smith: Bill and I decided to become United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA) Ambassadors for several reasons. We are both retired school teachers who were also physical education teachers and coaches in local schools.  We were impressed with the fact that, unlike the USTA, everyone involved with USAPA is a volunteer, no one is paid for their work, from the president on down the ladder. 

We realized that there was no pickleball being played between Fountain Valley and Oceanside, in San Diego County. Because we recognized the value of this incredible game with the strange name, we decided to dedicate our time, money, and efforts in order to introduce the game to as many people as possible. 

Patch: And these are the tennis courts that were being discussed at the City Council meeting?

Smith: Yes. When Bill discovered two unused tennis courts at Crown Valley Elementary School, he made an appointment with Principal, Tony Bogle.  Mr. Bogle was delighted that someone would want to use the badly neglected courts.  So we cleaned up the courts, hauled off trash, mud, leaves and other debris.  We purchased six portable nets, borrowed two more, purchased 18 paddles and a dozen pickleballs.

We officially began teaching and demonstrating the game on July 4. Since then over 300 different individuals have come to play on the courts at Crown Valley School.  We have taught over 250 of those individuals how to play the game.

Patch: You mentioned the physical benefits and that people play even in to their 80s. Why is this game is appropriate for all ages and what are the benefits?

Smith: There are players all over the United States and Canada who play pickleball well into their 80s. Pickleball is less strenuous on the body than tennis for several reasons.

First and foremost, is the fact that the size of the court is smaller and therefore, less running is required to cover the court. But picklers who want more exercise can arrange to play singles matches as well. Also, tennis players, as they get older, find they can't play as often, or not at all, because they suffer from "tennis elbow" or other joint and muscle pain, but in pickleball the ball is served underhand in which requires less stress on shoulders and arms. 

People tell us all the time that they are losing weight because they have taken up pickleball. Also, a friend who is in remission from cancer said, "It's good for my soul!" 

Patch: How can other members of the community join the fun?

Smith: We have now formed a club called Crown Valley Pickleball which charges a very minimal fees to play. All money goes back into the club and the site for improvements, new paddles for beginners, and balls. Community members who want to play will recieve free lessons. No one in our club is paid and all work is volunteered.

In the future, after the courts are completely renovated, the club plans to teach the fourth and fifth grade teachers how to play, and how to teach, the game of pickleball. The courts are located on an elementary school campus and the students should have the opportunity to learn how to play the game during their physical education periods. 

Hopefully, in turn, they will teach their parents and siblings how to play as well.  After all, seniors recognize that the future of the game belongs in the hands of the youngsters who haven't had the opportunity to learn the game - yet.

We maintain a friendly, profanity-free environment that welcomes any and all who come to learn about the game, and play with us. Tennis players tell us that they never smiled while they were playing tennis. Now they smile all the time while pickling!  

The Crown Valley Pickleball Club sponsored days of play at Crown Valley Elementary are Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12. Free lessons are given to all newcomers. Paddles are available for use while playing, balls are provided. The club charge $3 to play each time. Crown Valley Pickleball Club memberships are $10 per month, payable for six months in advance. For more information, please contact Bill or Terri Smith at billterris@cox.net

Sue Goldberger March 10, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Nice story. Good community participation.
Marion Talbot March 21, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Good exercise program with many benefits. I'm nearly 80 and want to use it for some benefits to keep more fit and loosened up. Can I keep it a simple sport that my daughter and I can play in the backyard?
Debbie L. Sklar (Editor) March 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Marion: Sure, why not?

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