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Getting pickled has never been so much fun

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If I asked you to play pickleball, what picture would you have? Gherkins at ten paces? Being pickled and chasing a yellow fluffy ball—no, that sounds like tennis!

Pickleball was first played in Washington, USA in 1965. The game is a racket or paddle sport in which two players or four players hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball with paddles over a 34-inch-high net until one side is unable to return the ball or commits a rule infraction. 

Monday saw the second come and try event in Koondrook as the pickleball phenomenon attracts those seeking a game of skill and agility that is less intense than tennis. In Australia, there are 153 pickleball clubs, 10,413 members and 52 tournaments. 

Around 40 people hit the hard courts in Koondrook to be guided by Shelley Maher, a former Murrabit local and pickleball enthusiast.

“For me, it was the ability to combine a number of sports that I’d already played. Plus, having played tennis I’ve had a knee reconstruction; I thought I don’t need to be playing on a full size tennis court again,” Shelley said when asked what attracted her to the sport.

Shelley now resides in Troy, Upstate New York, where she is the dean of students at a private school of 355 students, 230 of which are boarders.

“I’ve actually been over there (the USA) for 13 years now and I’ve been teaching at Emma Willard School for 11,” said Shelley.

“I started off sort of looking after their athletic department, and then ended up in my position as dean of students.

“I oversee everything from our athletic department to our health centre, to our counselling to all sorts of student life.” 

Two tennis coaches first suggested pickleball to Shelley, but she admitted she was reluctant at first.

“These two tennis coaches said, Shelley, you want to check this out, and I said, absolutely not.

“At that point in time, seven or eight years ago, it was still being played as an older person sport and it was very, very slow. 

“There’s been just this huge transition, and particularly in the last three years, it’s now being picked up by a lot of younger people, and now it’s become a profession.” 

Shelley has played on the 50 Plus Pro Tour, “had a bit of success” in a couple of tournaments and played at the US Open for a couple of years.

The excitement of local pickleball has been tremendous, with people from 10 to 70+ years all getting involved.

Shelley said one of the great features of the sport is anyone can learn to play in around 20-30 minutes. 

With permanent courts, pickleball could be another great sports attraction for visitors to Koondrook Barham for tournaments. 

If you’re keen to have a go, the next come and try event will be held at the Koondrook hard courts on Sunday, March 17 with beginners at 2pm-4pm, advanced 4pm-6pm and then on Wednesday, March 20 for everyone from 6pm. 

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 14 March 2024

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 14 March 2024.


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