I’m a night owl and I love to play pickleball. I’m lucky enough to live in a condo complex with four pickleball courts. But I often have to start work early, which makes morning games a challenge, and none of my courts have lights for night games.
So when I heard that a New Hampshire inventor was working on a light-up pickleball for playing after dark, I was intrigued.
Corky Newcomb is no newcomer to illuminated sports equipment. He made glow-in-the-dark soccer balls and his glow-in-the-dark golf balls were a worldwide hit.
“Someone told me to make golf balls, and I thought that was stupid,” Newcomb said. “I was like a baby in the woods.”
Night golf with lighted balls has gone global, with courses in 82 countries offering play after dark and boosting revenue for many courses.
It was pickleball enthusiast Billy McGehee — tennis pro turned sports promoter turned Arena Football League manager and NHL executive — who told Newcomb to try lighting a pickleball.
“I said what is pickleball?” remembers Newcomb.
But he spent a year researching, building molds and making models.
Its first version, which is now on the market, is a green ball that uses a short chemiluminescent glow stick to provide light. You just need to open the glow stick package, slide the glow stick through a hole on one pole of the ball and the other. The stick is measured to fit the ball exactly.
My boyfriend and I demonstrated these balls this week on our courts. They’re $19.95 for two balls and 10 glow sticks, plus an additional $9.95 for shipping; you can order online at lite4nitepickleball.com.
The balls are green with elongated oval-shaped holes. Wrapping prepares you for unusual ball behavior.
“When the ball lands on the ends of the glow stick, the ball won’t bounce as high,” he advised. “The bounce is very similar to how a tennis ball bounces off the lines of a clay court, hits a divot or grass turned to dirt at Wimbledon onto the baselines after the first week of matches. .”
“Baseball pitchers don’t always throw fastballs and sometimes throw curveballs,” he added. “As a pickleball player, you just have to be ready for different types of rebounds.”
The balls shine well and are easily visible in the dark. The glow stick was easy to insert.
But the packaging was okay. The balls had a weird bounce, especially compared to the pro outside balls, and sort of went off when they landed on the posts where the lightstick was inserted. Four times in an hour, the lightstick went slightly off the ball and had to be adjusted and the point replayed.
Overall, our verdict was “better than nothing”, but certainly different from regular play with a pro ball. However, if the choice was night pickleball with these balls or no pickleball, we would opt for these balls.
The LED-powered pro model is a game-changer
But Newcomb didn’t stop with the glowstick-powered bullets. He set out to design a new “pro” model that uses totally different technology, and this one is far superior, in my opinion.
The ball is yellow with regular round holes. Instead of a glow stick, it uses a small LED light that is attached inside one pole of the ball. To activate and deactivate it, you use a small metal key. Light, says Newcomb, lasts 24 hours.
We played with this ball for an hour on Thursday evening and found it almost indistinguishable from the regular balls we play with during the day.
These balls have not been certified by any of the professional pickleball organizations, although Newcomb says it is investigating this.
Newcomb claims its “pro” balls are quieter than other balls on the market. In a future column, we will test this claim with a decibel meter.
Playing at night without lights, I must say, made me a little nervous. Newcomb advises using glow-in-the-dark tape on the net and net posts, and using glowing necklaces and bracelets on players.
I asked him if he thought it was dangerous to play pickleball in the dark. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by his devious response: “The NFL, I think, is dangerous,” he said. “Little league baseball? They throw balls at 94 mph. It’s dangerous.”
Still, I didn’t feel comfortable running as fast as I would in broad daylight and missed shots I normally would because I was being cautious. That’s probably a good thing, although I felt a number of bullets that would normally have been easy to get.
Still, at the end of our hour-long session, my boyfriend and I agreed that we’ll definitely have more nighttime pickleball in our future if we can get our hands on more “pro” model balls from Newcomb.
The LED pickleballs will cost $9.95 and should be available in late May or early June. The batteries should cost around $1 each.
Coach Mary’s Tip of the Week: Why am I popping balls at the kitchen line?
We all hate it when we pop a juicy ball for our opponent to attack. … So frustrating! Here are some causes:
- Body positioning: We have to keep our paddle in front and in front of our striking shoulder. Move your body away to position yourself for a forehand or backhand or volley.
- Exceeding : If we reach too far into the kitchen, we might spawn a volley dink. You’ll need short jumps on a bounce on balls that you can’t comfortably fly through the air without going too far.
- Wrist flick: If you try to put a little “English” on your volley dink with a flick of the wrist, it may go too far and then be attackable. Try to soften your volley and keep your paddle forward at the same angle without wrist flip. More of a push.
- Paddle angle: The paddle should be relaxed, with a soft grip, to create backspin and give you a controlled dink volley that isn’t attackable.
- Too close or too far from the ball: If you get too close, you’ll get stuck and won’t be able to use your core muscles to push and soften the dink. If you are too far you will reach, without base support, and you will spawn a ball too far in front of you.
For more information, watch these videos:
PrimeTime Pickleball 2 Reasons The Ball Falls On You: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_F2mEguawA
Briones Pickleball: How to Stop Popping the Ball www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_F2mEguawA
Summer Round Robins
After undergoing back surgery this month, Mary is hosting a series of indoor round robin tournaments at the Desert Sports Center in Palm Desert this summer on June 5, July 16, July 31, August 13 and September 18. singles, women’s doubles and men’s doubles. Registrations start at $30, but mention The Desert Sun and get $5 off. For more information, call 949-939-4888 or email [email protected] The establishment has air conditioning and six courts, and you will not be eliminated!
Thank you very much for reading our column each week. We hope you learn new skills and enjoy reading about various topics. Have an idea or topic you’d like us to cover? Email us at [email protected]