Pickleball Popularity Improves: Article Editor Explores Behind The Scenes Of Sumter’s Growing Recreational Sports Trend

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A sport that started in 1965 with random objects and a badminton court rose from its ashes last year to become the most popular sport in the United States.

After COVID-19 shut down the world, only to push them away for recreational activities, pickleball became more popular across the country and in Sumter.

Don’t be fooled. No pickle is involved in sports. The name derives from the crewed race pickle boat, which was the boat of the remaining non-starters.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game began at the Pritchards in Washington state, where Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell created the game using a badminton court, ping-pong rackets, and a plastic ball. They later made rules and continued to play to keep the family together.

Today, pickleball still has this goal in mind as enthusiasts create family groups that play daily and weekly.



Sumter County Pickleball Ambassadors is a family of over 30 players who meet daily at the Palmetto Tennis Center and local community HOPE Centers.

Susan Wild, director of the City of Sumter Recreation and Facilities Program, said interest in the game increased in 2016, but it has become an even bigger sport amid COVID-19.

“The sport was primarily played in clubs and resorts, but received impressive reports as a growing recreational sport of paddleball,” she said. “The tennis center staff worked with Wilson Sports to come to Sumter and provide a demonstration session.”

Players played on temporary courts in town with removable tape until May, when the Palmetto Tennis Center opened brand new courts.

“The new extension of the Palmetto Tennis Center with four pickleball courts has been built and is currently used for community recreation and a longer game of pickleball hosted by Sumter County Pickleball Ambassadors,” Wild said.

Pickleball Ambassadors Anita Kieslich and Eric Fazekas are two certified main players in Sumter County who organized the group.

“He’s the expert,” Kieslich said, pointing to Fazekas.

“I play pickleball all over the state,” Fazekas said. “I travel a lot and play in a few tournaments.”



Fazekas started the game after COVID-19 prevented him from playing racket ball.

“I’m a racket player, 20 years of racket play. COVID kind of pushed us outside, so I’ve been playing (pickleball) for a year and a half, and I’ve played very little. bullet in the last one and a half years, ”he said. “I learned that I love being outdoors, meeting new people, playing with different people. It has become something that I really, really enjoy.”

Kieslich started playing the sport for exercise and for something to do after her husband died.

“It was a godsend for me,” she said. “As a senior, we didn’t have much to do.”

Kieslich said the sport started out with older members of the community, but it’s a sport for people of all ages.

“You grab it very easily,” Fazekas said. “It’s easy to learn, easy to get started. It doesn’t take or require a lot of equipment or skills. “

The sport is similar to table tennis and tennis, but it is played on a badminton-sized court with different rules.

“There’s a two-rebound rule, the main feature of pickleball is the cooking. It’s the 14-foot area through the net where you can’t enter unless it bounces,” he said. he adds.



The two became ambassadors through the USA Pickleball Association, gear for which Fazekas was decked out from head to toe. It is an association that supports players across the country with grants and the establishment of pitches in regions that have ambassadors who can teach the sport and its history.

“We’re here and have a resource person,” said Fazekas, “it’s kind of my job and Anita’s to help you get started.”

LEARN TO PLAY

They showed their ambassadorial credentials by teaching The Sumter Item how to play the sport on October 27 at the Palmetto Tennis Center.

Andy Wilson and I played against Kieslich and Denise Weeks. Kieslich provided me with a paddle, which they give to new players.

I quickly understood the game. It is similar to tennis, except for the sneaky serve and playing with a plastic ball that bounces less than a tennis ball.

The “kitchen” is a smaller non-volleyball area space that takes some getting used to.

Wilson and Weeks were competitive at heart, and I’m sure I slowed my partner down. However, he was patient and had confidence in my skills as a slightly above average athlete.



The rules were new, the names strange and the score took half a game to finally figure out. Wilson would not let me leave the game until I understood that points were scored only on serve, and that the server was moving from side to side whenever he or she scored a point.

To start a match, the score was 0-0-2, with two being a team’s second server.

I was proud to say I won a Sumter Pickleball jersey at the end of the score at 11 after Wilson and won the game. Kieslich even said I have potential and should come back and play.

“This group goes out pretty much every day of the week. They play pickleball pretty much every morning and sometimes evenings,” said Luke Whiteside, a certified instructor also known as the “Pickleball Guy” at the Palmetto. Tennis Center. “It’s getting more and more popular. It’s a pretty safe game. A lot of people who come out find it out pretty quickly.”

The tennis center has lessons available and has done programming for the past year for the sport.

“Our main program right now is that we had a clinic. It was an open clinic,” Whiteside said. “It was open every week.”

Sumter County Pickleball Ambassadors plan to host a clinic on November 6 starting at 9 a.m.

Kieslich said the clinic will be a way to engage new members or get the community interested in the sport.

“We want to grow,” Kieslich said of the group and the sport. “We want to extend it to young people, to those who work and, of course, to Shaw Air Force Base.”

“We will take newbies who have never played before,” said Fazekas. “For the clinic, we’re just asking the people and the kids who come to focus and really want to learn?” We will show them how to play. “

Paddles are available for the clinic at the Palmetto Tennis Center. Everyone is welcome to play.

To register, call (803) 840-2117 or (803) 316-7174.


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