It’s not badminton, tennis, racquetball or ping pong.
It’s actually something of a hybrid mix of all four, and it’s growing in popularity. It’s pickleball.
Fieldhouse USA recently hosted the Grapevine Spring Classic Pickleball Tournament. It was presented by the Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department.
“We were expecting between 50 and 75 players and we got 162,” said John Dalri, a community volunteer, member of the parks board and the Grapevine ambassador for the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
Pickleball began in 1965 just outside of Seattle when two friends, Congressman Joel Pritchard and local businessman Bill Bell, played a makeshift game of badminton. Unable to find ordinary racquets and a shuttlecock, they used ping pong, or table tennis, paddles and a perforated plastic ball.
The name pickleball is believed to have been derived from the Pritchards’ Cocker Spaniel named Pickles. When a ball would come his way, he would scoop it up in his mouth and take off running.
Various rules were put in place and the game became official. Players can use a variety of paddles ranging from wood to graphite. A hard plastic ball is used on both indoor and outdoor courts that are 20 feet wide and 44 feet long.
The first official pickleball court was built in the backyard of Pritchard’s neighbor and friend, Bob O’Brien. Now, there are nearly 4,000 locations to play in the U.S., according to the web site www.usapa.org.
And, of course, one of those is Grapevine, which holds regular play times at the recreation center. During the school year, play times are 1-3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Summer play times are from 8-10 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, and 1-3 p.m. Wednesday.
Dalri said the Grapevine tournament, which featured all doubles events with games to 11 points (win by 2), drew players from all over North Texas, along with places such as Houston, Austin and Oklahoma City. It featured players ages 26 to 85.
“It was a great tournament, a lot of fun. They did a great job in Grapevine,” said Ford Roberson, who lives at Robson Ranch and won a pair of gold medals in the Men’s 65 Doubles and 50 Mixed Doubles.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in the over-50 population in the world,” Roberson said.
Roberson is also the executive director of the Super Seniors International Pickleball Association. He said there is a tournament in Madrid, Spain in September.
Dalri said the tournament will return next year unless they are able to land the USAPA Mid-South Region tournament. In that case, he said the Grapevine Classic would be put on hold for a year.
“We plan to have a tournament one way or another next year,” he said. “If we don’t get the Mid-South Region next year, we’re going to work hard for 2019.”