Sour-sounding Sport Sweeping the Treasure Valley
MERIDIAN – There’s a sport that is spreading across the Treasure Valley and it can be best described as a little like a lot of other sports.
The court it’s played on is a little like tennis, the paddle it’s played with is a little like ping pong, the ball they use is a little like a wiffle ball and it’s name comes from the sport of crew, which is fitting since it was created in a suburb of Seattle.
At Settler’s Park in Meridian, Candace Despain spends a lot of time with her three children.
“At least three times a week,” said Despain.
While keeping tabs on the little ones Candace and her kids sometimes notice what is happening within wandering distance of the playground.
“I think it’s tennis but it might be another paddle ball,” Despain tried to explain. “‘Cause it didn’t look like a tennis raquet.”
It’s called pickleball.
“No, that’s not what I would have thought it was called,” said Despain.
She may not know its name but it is making itself known across the Treasure Valley.
“We started in 2011,” said Nick Leach, founding member of the Boise Area Pickleball Association. “There was probably 15 to 20 of us that started the original club.”
Since then he has enjoyed watching the sport’s explosive growth.
“It’s everywhere right now,” said Leach.
The club began with just four outdoor courts and now there are 20 different places to play across the Treasure Valley. Southern Idaho is now home to three pickleball clubs with nearly 300 members.
And three days a week you can find a good-sized group of them at Settler’s Park.
“I play five days a week, two-and-a-half, three hours a day,” said Wayne Larsen. He used to play tennis on these courts but picked up his first pickleball paddle about a year ago.
“And I was just hooked like a big salmon,” admitted Larsen.
In fact, most of these ageless athletes are former tennis players.
“I used to be a fair tennis player,” said Ed Crawford. “I don’t even want to play tennis anymore.”
“It’s just a fun game, it’s not hard on the body,” said Larsen.
That’s why Diana Bunger, just two months shy of her 73rd birthday, is out here almost everyday. She has been dealing with Parkinson’s disease for the last four years, and is waiting to have her knee and hip replaced. But even that can’t keep her off the court.
And she’s not even the oldest one out here. That title belongs to Yonne Hart, 77 years old and attached to her first addiction.
“Wholeheartedly,” Hart said proudly. “My husband calls me a pickle-holic.”
The sometimes fast-paced game began more than 50 years ago and, whether you’ve heard of it or not, it can also be called one of America’s fastest growing sports.
“That’s what they say,” said Crawford, who’s been traveling the country in his RV since 2000. Originally from West Branch, Michigan he has seen the sport’s growth firsthand having played pickleball all over the U.S.
“Well, Texas, Washington, Oregon, California, South Carolina,” said Crawford.
No matter where he goes, he packs his paddle and he can usually find a game.
“And you’re always very welcome,” said Crawford. “That’s the neat thing about pickleball, you’re just one of the players.”
The USA Pickleball Association claims more than 2 million Americans play the game, most of which are over the age of 60. Last month the first-ever U.S. Open Pickleball Championship was held in Florida.
Copyright 2016 KTVB