Pickleball has grown greatly in popularity in Sumter since October of 2017, when the Shepherd's Center of Sumter and the Sumter County Recreation Department both sponsored regular games. Local enthusiasts searched for an indoor facility for their …
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HISTORY OF PICKLEBALL
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Rep. Joel Pritchard of Washington state and his friend, businessman Bill Bell, to entertain their families. It was named for the Pritchards' dog Pickles, who kept running off with the ball. Pickleball is included in many states' senior Olympics. The USA Pickleball Association was organized in 1984, and the sport is now played in 43 states, four Canadian provinces and on many individual courts.
Pickleball has grown greatly in popularity in Sumter since October of 2017, when the Shepherd's Center of Sumter and the Sumter County Recreation Department both sponsored regular games. Local enthusiasts searched for an indoor facility for their games and now meet regularly at the University of South Carolina Sumter's Nettles Building gym.
"Spectators are invited to see what pickleball is all about," said Anita Kieslich, who plays and "oversees" the group. "If people want to play, they just show up while we're here, and we'll teach them how to play."
While there is no official league involved for the players who meet twice a week for some friendly competition, the group is hosting a tournament at the USC Sumter gym on Friday. The tournament is named for Dixie Daniels, who was instrumental in getting regular pickleball games established.
Kieslich said there are around 30 players expected to participate in the tournament.
"There are players as young as their 20s and others into their 70s," she said. "It's good, gentle exercise, especially for older people, but it can get very competitive."
All play together, and the teams are coed, Kieslich noted.
Players at last Tuesday's games quickly formed doubles teams and started playing. Bob Karel brought a special pickleball "coin" he'd made to decide which team goes first. He said the game can be "quite strenuous" and is good exercise, especially for the joints.
June Winters, who had hip replacement surgery, said pickleball had reduced her recovery time.
"I was playing just six weeks later," she said. She comes down to Sumter for four months each year, "then I go home to Minnesota and play five times a week."
Amber Purcell, one of the younger players, said her family recently visited from Wisconsin, "I introduced the game to them, and they now play five times a week" there.
The players arrive on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays around 9 a.m. and set up the courts themselves. Each court is the size of a badminton court, 20 by 22 feet on either side of the center net, which is shorter and less wide than a tennis net. Other than the center net, equipment needed is a paddle and a ball. The paddle is larger than a ping pong paddle, and the ball is hard plastic, hollow and 3 inches in diameter. It has round holes and resembles a wiffle ball.
The rules for pickleball are similar to those for volleyball. Each doubles team selects a server, who serves until his or her team faults. To win a game, one side must score 11 points with at least a two-point advantage.
The public is invited to watch the Dixie Daniels Pickleball Tournament, presented in cooperation with the Shepherd's Center of Sumter, beginning at 9 a.m. Friday in the Nettles Building gym at the University of South Carolina, 200 Miller Road. For more information, call the Shepherd's Center at (803) 773-1944. Visit the website https://www.usapa.org for more about pickleball.
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