It looks a bit like a game cobbled together during a slow weekend at a vacation house after the host couldn’t track down all the pieces required for any single sport.
Players swing paddles that look like they came from an oversized Ping-Pong game. They hit a hollow plastic ball that’s full of holes. The ball bounces back and forth over a net similar to one on a tennis court.
The game moves quickly. Some regular players of the sport called “pickleball” say it can feel like playing table tennis while standing on the table.
Still, it’s catching on. Just ask Ed Feldstein, a 77-year-old Sandy Springs retiree who says he helped bring the game to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in Dunwoody a half-dozen or so years ago and now plays about four days a week.
“It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to play. It’s fun to learn,” Feldstein said one recent morning before he joined the crew getting a morning workout with a series of fast-paced pickleball games at the MJCCA, which calls pickleball its “hottest sport.”
Feldstein remembers days when he’d get laughed at when he went into a sporting goods store and ask to buy a pickleball paddle. No more, he says, because pickleball courts are springing up across north metro Atlanta.
The city of Dunwoody has a court in its newest city park, the Park at Pernoshal Court. That court joins more than 70 others set up across Georgia and more than 13,000 in the country, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), which is located in Surprise, Ariz.
Allan Bleich, a retired doctor, said he took up the sport after he stopped playing tennis because of knee trouble. “It’s just a fun way to exercise,” he said.
Nora Floersheim, a 67-year-old retired school teacher and former tennis player, picked up pickleball a couple of years ago at the Marcus Center and now teaches it to newcomers. Like other pickleball fans, she said an important aspect of the game is camaraderie among the players, who sit together and chat while awaiting a turn on the court. “It’s very, very, very social,” she said.
And the name? How did it get to be “pickleball,” anyway? It goes back to the origin of the game itself. Pickleball was invented near Seattle in 1965 by vacationing families who wanted to play badminton, but couldn’t find the shuttlecock. So they combined paddles, a Wiffle ball and a badminton net to make a game that kids and adults alike could play.
The pickleball association says one story is that the original players named their game cobbled from many parts after the “pickle boat” in rowing competitions, which uses a crew made up of rowers from different boats. Another version is that they named it for the family dog, Pickles. ■
Where to Play
About 30 area courts are listed on the USAPA website, though there are considerably more in local parks and neighborhoods. As the sport’s popularity rises, changes and additions are likely. Visit usapa.org and click on ‘Places to Play’ for details, and be sure to call and verify times, cost and availability beforehand.
Acworth: Kennworth Tennis Center
3900 South Main St., 30101
Call William Fawcett, 770-265-3599
Alpharetta: Willis Park Recreation Center
11925 Wills Rd., 30009
Call Kevin McDonald
Atlanta: Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church
2715 Peachtree Rd., 30305
Call Todd Washington
Avondale Estates: Avondale Estates City Tennis Courts at Willis Park
51 Dartmouth Ave., 30002
Call Mary Gresham,
Clarkston: Milam Park
3867 Norman Rd., 30021
Call City Hall, 404-296-0500
Decatur: Decatur Recreation Center
105 Electric Ave., 30030
Call Portia Langley, 678-553-6563
Dunwoody: Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
5342 Tilly Mill Rd., 30338
Call Ashley Cohen, 678-812-3861
Lilburn: Mountain Park Baptist Family Wellness Ministry
5485 Five Forks Tricum Rd., 30087
Call Carolyn Willis, 770-335-0159
Marietta: Fullers Park Recreation Center
3499 Robinson Rd., 30068
Call Center Gym, 770-509-2737
Norcross: Robert D. Fowler YMCA-Peachtree Corners
5600 W. Jones Bridge Rd., 30092
Call Paige Blair, 770-246-9622
Roswell: East Roswell Recreation Center
9000 Fouts Rd., 30075
Sandy Springs: Hammond Park Tennis Courts
6005 Glenridge Dr., 30328 Email firstname.lastname@example.org;
Stone Mountain: Stone Mountain Recreation—Rock Gym
930 Ridge Ave., 30087
Call Steve Higgins or Warren Hoffman, 404-403-8155