New generation of islanders have a dilly of a time with pickelball

Pickleball, a sport invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965, has made a recent comeback in its hometown.

Since its development in the backyard of Congressman Joel Pritchard nearly 50 years ago, pickleball has become an international sport. Organizations such as the United States Pickleball Association, the Singapore Pickleball Association, and the All India Pickleball Association have been founded and are still growing.

On Bainbridge Island, the sport has been part of the elementary school P.E. programs for many years. However, through the initiative of Julie Miller, sports manager for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, pickleball is experiencing a resurgence among local adults.

“I had a couple people approach me who wanted to play,” Miller recalled, “so I decided to hold a free night last August where anyone could learn to play the sport. Our program has slowly grown from that.”

Miller speculated that curiosity about the sport may have been sparked because of its local roots, but that is not the only draw.

“It’s a game that is really easy to learn, and people are turning to it instead of tennis,” she said.

Pickleball is a fairly even blend between tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played on a badminton-sized court with a lowered tennis net. Instead of a racquet, players use a wooden paddle to hit a small wiffle ball over the net.

Though the program originally began as a weekly event, it has expanded to three days a week. Bainbridge Parks & Rec is now hosting pickleball in the lower Commodore gym from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. The fee is $2. All adults are welcome to join, whether they have experience or not. Paddles are available to borrow.

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