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Life’s a Pickle, Play Ball

Dec 08, 2015 08:22AM ● Published by Alisha Soeken

By Alisha Soeken

Murray - It’s a salty snack, it’s a brining cucumber. No, it’s pickleball!

There is a new racquet sport in town. Part tennis, part badminton and ping-pong, pickleball appeals to all ages and skill levels. New players are coming in droves, learning and loving the game.

Pickleball started during the summer of 1965 in the home of Joel Pritchard, a U.S representative for the state of Washington. After returning home from golfing, Pritchard and his two friends, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, found their families bored one Saturday afternoon. They attempted to set up badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. They improvised with a wiffle ball, lowered the badminton net, and fabricated paddles of plywood from a nearby shed. The humble beginnings of a now beloved game were backyard born.

Husband and wife, Sam and Emily Smith, won gold at the Ogden Pickleball Association’s annual tournament. 

“I like that almost anyone can play and within a short time be competitive,” Sam said. 

The Smiths did just that after winning gold only three years after being introduced to the game. 

“I first heard about pickleball in a class at Weber State,” Sam said. “It wasn’t explained very well, so I thought it was kinda silly. Some friends invited us to play; Emily and I were a little hesitant but decided to give it a try. We played it once, and were hooked.”

People around the world are also finding themselves hooked. Pickleball has a presence in Canada, India, Spain and New Zealand. Here in our community, a ribbon cutting was held at the Heritage Center to celebrate the opening of their new outdoor pickleball court. Murray City mayor Ted Eyre cut the ribbon alongside members of the city council: Blair Camp, Diane Turner, Brett Hale and Jim Brass. 

Standing with them was Lisa Shadrick, a 57-year-old member at the Heritage Center, and brand new player of pickleball. Shadrick loves pickleball so much she even wrote a poem about it, which was read at the ceremony.

“I’ve been playing for a year and I just love it,” she said. “I like the physical part of it, it’s more interactive than a treadmill and gets my endorphins going.” 

Les Rivin, also in attendance at the ribbon cutting, taught Shadrick to play, and at age 57 she was Rivin’s youngest student at the Heritage Center. 

“There are 80- and 85-year-olds out there playing,” Shadrick said. “It’s great. We used to have to sit down because so many people wanted to play and we had to take turns, but with this new court, we only sit down because we need rest.” 

Part of what makes pickleball appealing is it’s unprejudiced to gender, age and skill. 

“My favorite thing about pickleball is that you can be pretty competitive as a girl, or even if you’re old for the matter. The people that have been the hardest for me to play against were twice my age,” gold medalist Emily Smith said.        

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