Don’t look now, but a new sport is sweeping the nation, and it was evident Saturday morning as pickleballers filled all three courts at Mound Park. It’s Pickleball. That’s right -Pickleball.
Pickleball is a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.
Some people take it really seriously and play it as often as they can. One of those players is Richie Purdy.
“This is just some people who get together here,” Purdy said. “We started playing about a year-and-a-half ago over to the (SOMC) Life Center.”
Purdy said the demand was there, but they were looking for an outside facility and there it was.
“I went to (Portsmouth City Manager) Derek Allen and asked him about these three (tennis) courts that were empty. I asked him if we could paint the lines here, and he said – fine,” Purdy said. “We got a hold of some nets, came over here and painted the lines, and now we’ve got a lot of people involved.”
That was an understatement – some 20 people were at the Mound Park facility playing the game which features paddles and a plastic ball.
“We try to play four or five times a week,” Purdy said. “I always tried to go to the Life Center and get on the treadmill, but it’s as good as that.”
How fun is Pickleball to play?
“Oh, it’s a lot of fun,” Purdy said. “And the people make it. The people we have here are great people and we have a great time.”
Some people have taken it to the next level.
“We have a guy who plays with us. He’s from Kentucky. His name is Tom Dyer,” Purdy said. “He won the seniors championship up in Westerville (Ohio) yesterday (Friday) and a buddy of his, Gary Douthat, are going to play in the doubles up there today (Saturday).”
At the far end of the court where Purdy and his grandson, Eric, were playing, was one of the highest profile people in town when it comes to fitness – Wendy Waugh, who was lauding the upcoming Southern Ohio Senior Games.
“We are hosting for the first time ever a regional games here in Portsmouth, Ohio,” Waugh said. “It’s happening, actually the whole month of September, so there will be a whole variety of events – Pickleball being one of them. We’re going to do swimming events at Shawnee State (University), and we’re going to do Track and Field events at the Portsmouth High School complex.”
Waugh said the competition will be for seniors 50 and older and will be divided in categories of five year increments.
“Particularly the Pickleball is going to be a 50 and over, doubles open,” Waugh said. “So Rich can choose a woman and he will go in the age division of the youngest person on his team.”
Waugh said they are attempting to get more people to get Pickleball teams together.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.