Great Minds ‘Dink’ Alike: Demand for Pickleball Inspires More Short, Local Programs


It was the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, when three fathers were looking for a new way to entertain their children for the rest of the summer.

Joel Pritchard, a politician, and Bill Bell, a businessman, were neighbors of handyman Barney McCallum, and together they envisioned a four-player sport on a badminton court with a 34 net. inches in the center.

Using plastic balls they had dragged and wooden paddles sawn by McCallum, the three men refined the sport that now unites communities on the North Shore during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Pickleball has nothing to do with the brine of cucumbers and everything to do with family. The Pritchards hound Pickles chased the plastic ball and ran away with it, and as the game progressed, an official name was needed. Pickleball was it.

The game is played similarly to tennis or badminton with one side trying to score a point on the other. Much like these sports, participants can play in singles (one on one) or doubles (two on two) in an 11, 15 or 21 point race.

The ball is served diagonally from the right square of the court, but unlike tennis, points in pickleball can only be scored from the serving side.

Susan Bernstein asks for feedback at a Glencoe Park District workshop in August.

A serve must bounce before it is played, and the return must also bounce before it is played. Playing the ball back and forth is often called “dinking” because of the sound of the plastic hitting the wooden paddle.

There is a no volley zone within 7 feet of the net. Players cannot strike the ball in the air in the area, and a serve cannot land in this area, which is also known as the kitchen.

Pickleball participation in the United States increased 21.3% from 2019 to 2020, and there are approximately 4.2 million pickleball players in the United States, according to the USA Pickleball Association, the national governing body. Sport.

Everywhere on the North Shore, pickleball has taken off mainly thanks to word of mouth.

Deb and Mitchell Cohen have lived in Wilmette since 1980 and only learned about pickleball a few years ago during a trip to Sanibel, Florida where pickleball was the dominant activity.

“It started out as something for the older audience, people who hurt themselves while doing other things like tennis, running or paddle boarding,” Deb told The Record. “And it grew, and now you see a lot of young people in their twenties [and] all ages collect pickle, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Not only do the Cohens love pickleball for fun, but also because it is accessible to everyone, regardless of athletic ability.

“I still play tennis, but I prefer the pickle,” Deb said.

Jamie Steckler, of Glencoe, keeps the volley during a workshop on Wednesday, August 25 at Watts Park.

But with a growing number of players, residents of the North Shore are eager to have more places to play. Tennis and platform tennis are very popular throughout the region. The courts must be modified with different lines to take into account the dimensions of the pickleball courts.

For example, the Glencoe Park district had the Watts Park tennis courts lined up for pickleball, and the Winnetka Park district did the same with its platform tennis courts.

The outdoor courts at the AC Nielsen Tennis Center are being redone with two pickleball courts, according to John Peterson, executive director of the Winnetka Park district, but court availability is not guaranteed.

Lisa Snabes, a Winnetka resident, told The Record that she doesn’t let the lack of space on the pitch or the weather conditions prevent her from playing with her two pickleball groups.

“We were shoveling the Northfield lands. We were so desperate to play, ”Snabes said. “It was in February of this year. The guy would take out the salt and put it on the pitch so we could be outside and play.

Snabes started playing pickleball on a friend’s tennis court in 2020 during the pandemic as a safe way to get fresh air, exercise and socialize with friends.

Eventually, a friend of Snabes painted official pickleball lines on her tennis court, and now the group meets regularly in the friend’s yard for pickleball, cocktails, and dinner.

The demand for space to play pickleball hasn’t gone unnoticed by local government officials, and Wilmette believes they can get residents onto the grounds – and out of the kitchen – as the suburbs are in their early stages. program development.

Wilmette Park board chairman Mike Murdock believes the sport can be as successful as another recent addition to Wilmette. The district built a multi-court tennis complex in West Park in 2013.

“I think the case of pickleball is even more evident today,” Murdock wrote to The Record. “As part of our verification process, we received positive feedback from residents that they would support a pickleball facility in our community. “

In Kenilworth, residents can expect to see new tennis and pickleball courts soon. The Kenilworth Park board of directors has approved a conceptual renovation plan for Townley Field that includes two tennis / pickleball courts, said John Kiwala, district executive director.

To the north, pickleballers can play at Watts and Shelton Parks in Glencoe, and reservations can be made online. The Glencoe Park District also hosts beginner and intermediate pickleball workshops with local pro Carl Rosenthal.

Pickleball has been a regular sport in the area for the past few years, but more and more fields and facilities are on the way.

And in Northfield, there are six outdoor pickleball courts available.

“We are currently happy with the six we have and the use of these courts,” said Donald Klein, Chairman of the Board of Northfield Park. “During the last winter months, we have had indoor pickleball on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. We will be tackling this activity again this year as the season approaches. “

As officials scramble to add pickleball courts and equipment to meet demand, they find themselves drawn to the field as well.

“Personally, I took classes and played pickleball with my wife and friends,” Klein told The Record. “We really love the sport. I think it is a sport that can be played and enjoyed by all ages.


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