Pickleball Extravaganza

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Mauk)

The organizers of the Nishna Valley Family YMCA’s first-ever pickleball tournament decided to call it an “extravaganza.”

“We thought it sounded better than a tournament,” said organizer Bruce Henderson of the event.

After drawing about two dozen teams to Sunday’s tournament, it can be safe to say things were a success.

Pickleball is a racquet sport, combining elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, but with several key modifications to such things as rules and court dimensions. The sport is played with two, three or four players, using solid wood paddles to hit a perforated ball (think wiffle ball) over a net. The game was introduced in the mid-1960s as a children’s pastime before gaining popularity with adults.

In Atlantic, there are leagues through Atlantic Parks and Recreation, at Sunnyside Park; and at the Nishna Valley Y, but this is the first tournament of its kind in Atlantic.

“There’s about 3 million players in the United States, but there was about half that many 10 years ago,” according to Henderson, who said the game is popular with retirees who spend the winter down south. “We get a lot of players from Elk Horn and the Exira-Kimballton area who’ve wanted to play inside.”

There’s many reasons why people have taken to pickleball. Although a game for all ages, the sport has become particularly popular with seniors. The court is smaller than a regulation tennis court: 20-by-44 feet for pickleball, vs. 78 feet long for tennis, 36 feet wide for doubles and 27 feet for singles.

“It’s a very social game and older people can … move two or three steps quickly,” said Henderson. “There’s exercise involved and for seniors it’s very competitive. And you talk more.”

There were four divisions. Mixed Doubles A winners were Frank Greiner and Linda Olsen, both of Atlantic, while Dan Thomsen of Atlantic and Melanie Shellburg of Council Bluffs won the B division.

Men’s doubles winners were Bruce Spaulding and Scott Peters, both of Council Bluffs, while Shellburg teamed with Barb Chase of Atlantic to capture the women’s doubles crown.

Anyone interested in participating in the parks department’s pickleball league may call Henderson at (712) 249-8255.