Experience the Pure Pleasure of Pickleball

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

Several years ago Topgolf clubs, with climate-controlled hitting bays, became all the rage. Since the pandemic, however, a new sport has taken center stage, one that interests all generations: pickleball. In this sport, which combines tennis, badminton and ping-pong, players stand on opposite sides of a three-foot-high net, and use paddles to return a plastic ball back and forth until it’s either hit out of bounds, hit illegally, or bounces twice.Pickleball

Although it’s been around for 60 years, recently pickleball has become the fastest-growing game in America. Starting in 2024, Mudsock Youth Athletics is rolling out a pickleball league for kids. In addition, Circle City Athletics, Indy’s premier organizer of adult sports leagues, coordinates pickleball leagues.

Because the game is less complex than tennis and requires a smaller court (a net standing at 34 inches high on a 20- by 40-foot court), it’s an excellent sport not only for beginners, but also for older people who want to remain active while still preserving their joints. We all know that staying active is key to healthy living, and if you can have fun doing it, all the better.

Pickleball is accessible to everyone, regardless of age or athleticism. Grandparents can set aside the checkerboard and play pickleball with their grandkids instead. Furthermore, the sport provides a chance to socialize. At the beginning of the summer, Fishers resident Jeremy Ash and his wife, Aimee, put up a pickleball court in their cul-de-sac, in hopes of pulling their teenagers off their phones and luring their younger kids away from their video games. As it turns out, they lured out more than their children.

“We’ve lived in our cul-de-sac for 15 years and many of our neighbors have been here that long,” says Jeremy Ash, who hosted a tournament during a summer weekend. “They always jump in on my crazy plans. We had 12 people participate in a bracket-style tourney. People came out to watch and cheer on their favorite teams. We had a blast.”

On top of the fun and the physical exercise, the sport also offers mental health benefits. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Paula Freedman, founder of HumanKind Psychological Services, pickleball can reduce stress, boost mood, improve sleep, increase self-esteem and enhance cognitive function. This last one is critical as we age. Sure, crossword puzzles and Scrabble can help to improve mental acuity, but sharpening your mind while moving your body is twice as nice.

“[Pickleball] boosts cognitive functions such as attention, focus and quick decision making, making it a great option for tapping into and using different parts of your brain,” says Freedman.Pickleball

Getting started is easy. A quick search on YouTube will provide a tutorial. If you’re more of a hands-on, in-person kind of learner, however, check out local clinics. For instance, Fishers Parks partners with a tennis and pickleball instructor, Team Witsken, to offer private and semiprivate lessons to beginners.

Fishers offers free public courts at Cyntheanne Park and Roy G. Holland Memorial Park. They started out with just four courts at Cyntheanne Park, but those were always busy.

“We put in two more and the community was like, ‘While you’re at it, why don’t you add four instead of two?’” says Andrew Myers, Fishers Parks operations manager. Ultimately, the Fishers Parks and Recreation Foundation raised $20,000 in additional funds during its pickleball court fundraising campaign.

After seeing the high demand at Cyntheanne Park, in the fall of 2022, Fishers Parks elected to build five courts at Holland Park to provide the same opportunity for people to play on the other side of town.Pickleball

“Both courts get a lot of heavy use,” says Myers.

For the most part, courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are a few exceptions to that. For instance, in the event of a tournament, courts may be reserved. In addition, a few parks department vendors teach lessons on the courts. At Cyntheanne Park, paddle outlines are painted on the ground so people can lay their paddles down to claim the next game.

If you’ve not yet tried this fun fitness craze, there’s no time like the present to discover the pure pleasure of pickleball.

For more on Mudsock Youth Athletics, visit myathletics.com. For more on Circle City Athletics, visit ccasports.com.

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