Good sports

Published 7:59 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

Leader Publications photo/KATIE ROHMAN About 30 people have begun playing pickleball at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Teams of two or four play this paddle sport, which is suitable for children to senior citizens.

A new activity in Niles is piquing the curiosity of Niles-Buchanan YMCA members and pingpong and racquet sport enthusiasts.

Niles resident Myles Nugent — a snowbird for part of the year — became involved in pickleball, a paddle sport. His Arizona community has about 500 players, and Nugent wanted to bring the sport to Niles. He became the Niles ambassador to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).

YMCA members and non-members began playing pickleball in the indoor volleyball courts in September. The players are not part of a club or organized league and do not pay team fees, but non-members of the YMCA must pay $10 per day to use the facility.

Most players bring their paddles — usually made of graphite or composite — but the YMCA supplies some plastic ones. The YMCA also purchased two nets for the players, even though it is not an official YMCA activity.

Diana Clark, of Niles, serves as the assistant to Nugent when he is living in Arizona.

“I’ve always liked racquet sports,” she said. “This is a nice alternative.”

The game is played with two or four players and a net similar to those used in badminton.

The paddles are longer than pingpong paddles, but do not have holes like tennis racquets.

Plastic balls with holes, similar to wiffle balls, are used.

“The rules are pretty similar to tennis,” Clark said.

“You don’t want to ‘stew in the kitchen,’” Clark said.

Men and women of all ages and athletic ability play, but the teams at the YMCA are usually for adults only. The youngest player was 19 and the oldest was 80 during games played Wednesday morning.

About 30 people regularly play at the YMCA.

“We’re trying to grow it,” Clark said. “It’s all ages. I really would like to see a kids’ pickleball.

“It’s people who just want to have fun and exercise,” she said.

Some players are planning to attend their first competition — a USAPA-sanctioned tournament — June 23-24 in Grand Rapids.

Interested pickleball players can show up at the volleyball courts between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Signup is not required.

How to play pickleball

• Serving: The serve must be hit underhand and each team must play the first shot off the bounce. After the ball has bounced once on each side, teams can volley the ball or play it off the bounce.

•Volleying: No volleying is permitted in the seven-foot non-volley zone (“the kitchen”) on each side of the net.

• Scoring: Both players on the serving team are allowed to serve, and a team can score points only when serving. Games are played to 11 points and teams must win by two points. Points are lost by hitting the ball out of bounds, hitting the net, stepping in the kitchen and volleying and volleying the ball before it has bounced once on each side of the net.