“I played five minutes and I was hooked, it was that quick,” Gary said with a smile. That was two and a half years ago and now he spends much of his time, upwards of three to four days a week, playing pickleball at the North Spokane YMCA.
When his wife started coming to the Y regularly for water aerobics, Gary tagged along to see what he could do to keep himself active. Handed a paddle and a ball, he said there was no looking back, “I’ve played a lot of tennis, this is way more fun,” Gary said.
The game of pickleball is played much like a giant game of ping pong, two sides with a net in the middle and a paddle for each player. The games are quick and fast-paced, although Gary points out that older players can keep up quite well, “it can go really fast, and the court isn’t that big so there isn’t a lot of running. You can do well and have fun without running all over the place. The key is patience and using your head,” Gary said.
Players of all ages come to play pickleball at the North Y, and Gary loves to see the different generations coming together to share time. “We’ll have people in their 70s helping a 10-year-old learn the game and give them tips. There aren’t a lot of sports out there where you can have small children and seniors play a game and be equally matched.” Gary continues, “Folks will bring their grandchildren, and some schools do a P.E. program here, it’s a total mix of ages and skill levels. That part is the best, people joining one another.”
Gary has been able to cultivate a large group of pickleball players to stay together and connected, “we’ll send out a message to everyone on Facebook or email and coordinate games, and even picnics,” Gary said.
Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and Gary knows why it can be so alluring, “you can walk right up and be fairly confident you know what you’re doing within an hour. It’s also not too physically taxing. People with limited mobility, bad knees, backs, whatever. It doesn’t matter. You can make up what you lack in physicality by being smart and knowing the game,” Gary said.
Gary is quick to praise the YMCA and what they have done to help grow pickleball, “the Y has been so great. From new equipment, to expanding gym time, I’m so happy that we can work together to get more people involved here,” Gary said.
For anyone wanting to get started, Gary says the best thing to do is just to show up, “just walk up and pick up a paddle. Everyone is so friendly and we all want others to enjoy what we love.”