Portola Valley aboard the pickleball bandwagon | June 12, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - June 12, 2019

Portola Valley aboard the pickleball bandwagon

by Rick Radin

Portola Valley is among hundreds of communities nationwide that are getting addicted to a sport with the strange name of pickleball.

A pickleball court can be created by taking a tennis court and dividing it into four pickleball courts, making new lines on the court with tape. The game is played with large rectangular paddles and a wiffle ball, a hard plastic ball with holes in it.

Alpine Hills Tennis and Swimming Club in Portola Valley has caught the bug and converted one of its courts for pickleball. Now a growing group of residents would like to do the same with one of the town's two public tennis courts, according to Portola Valley pickleball player Carrie Fregosi.

"You get more interest and more players on a court," Fregosi said. "The people I know who play tennis belong to a private club, so this is a way you can get the public involved."

Pickleball has about 2.5 million players nationwide and more than 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).

The paddles are smaller than tennis rackets but larger than ping-pong paddles, and are made of lightweight composite materials, such as aluminum and graphite, according to the USAPA.

The game allows up to 16 people to play on a tennis court versus a maximum of four for tennis, making it a more efficient use of space and giving people more playing time.

Unlike tennis, players score only when serving and the first team with 10 points wins. Similar to tennis, the players serve across the court, and the ball must bounce once in the service box before being returned, according to the USAPA.

Pickleball is being taught to kids in physical education classes in middle and high schools, but it has a special appeal for seniors who can keep active without having to cover an entire tennis court.

The game was allegedly named after a cocker spaniel named Pickles that belonged to one of the sport's inventors, Joel Pritchard of Bainbridge Island in Washington.

"Lots of ex-tennis players are playing," Fregosi said. "It's very cardio, and it's great for seniors."

Fregosi said she was at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto where the Palo Alto Pickleball Club plays and was inspired to organize a similar group in Portola Valley.

"I was invited to play in Palo Alto, and I thought that we could get this for our town," she said. "I don't want to drive to Palo Alto when we could do this in Portola Valley."

Fregosi's group had an event to test interest on May 3, and drew about 70 people to the town courts, with four skilled players giving instructions, she said.

"If they get the town to put (pickleball) stripes on the court, my kids would go ape to play pickleball," said resident Danna Breen, who played with Public Works Director Howard Young at the event.

Pickleball players have communicated with town staff about their interest in converting a tennis court for pickleball and staff is looking into it, according to Town Manager Jeremy Dennis.

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