It’s hard to describe Pickleball accurately. The game LOOKS like tennis, but it’s played at Badminton speed, and with table tennis bats, sort of. The game has been around in one form or another since 1965, when it was first seen in Washington state. It’s recently started to gain real momentum however, being the fastest growing sport in North America for the past two years, and now it’s officially the game of Washington state. It’s easy to see why the game has taken off and it’s hard to watch a game without wanting to pick up a bat and join the fun. Like any really good game, it’s simple and the hardest part is keeping score. If you’re interested talk to Rachel Johnstone and Tony Minto about Pickleball. They are so enthusiastic, and they want to share their enthusiasm and the absolute fun it is to play.
Rachel Johnstone can be blamed for being the culprit who bought Pickleball to Mercury Bay (just kidding). Someone from America brought it back to Rotorua and in 2015 the New Zealand Pickleball Association was formed, and it is now spreading all over New Zealand.
Rachel says that tennis players have all the really good skills to apply to Pickleball, but a lot of squash players also cross easily to Pickleball. “It is played on a badminton size court and it’s fun and addictive, a very easy game to learn.” The charm of the game is the ball as it is a uniquely light weight perforated polymer ball, and you hit the ball with a paddle which is smaller than a squash racquet. Rachel says, “It can be indoors or outdoors, and each game is based on being first to 11 points. A game can take 12 to 20 minutes and you need to win by two points. Sometimes, a tournament can go to 15 or 21, until someone is two points ahead.”
Pickleball Whitianga has 50 to 70 registered players and 30 regular players. Rachel adds, “We had a lot of school kids pre covid but during that long period of covid, they scattered. The majority of our players are 45 years to 70 years, though we have a 78 year old player who is playing competitively.
We were the first Pickleball Club in New Zealand to Incorporate we were so keen. It can be daunting if you are brand new and haven’t played before and everyone you can see is going for it. Pickleball needs little equipment and is so affordable. We would love more players, but our biggest limiting factor is access to the school gymnasium or suitable court playing space.”
Rachel explains the situation. “Pickleball in Mercury Bay does not yet have a dedicated place to play. We work with Leisa McCleery and the sports department at MBAS and they have been fantastic in giving us space to play, but we just don’t have enough time space with their busy schedules for students. The Moewai Sports Park has a rubberised surface and It is where we would like to work with other sports and share multi line use. We can play on asphalt but not on astro surfaces, as they don’t have the bounce. We do have some courts drawn out at the tennis courts at Lyon Park, but it is a very rough asphalt.”
Open Day at Matarangi “We found there were 11 tennis courts at Matarangi and we chose those courts due to there being less wind and they have smooth surfaces. We made an application last June for four permanent nets and we were successful. This will really help our Open Day on Saturday, 29 October, at Matarangi Courts. We are inviting everyone who is interested to come and have a go and Open play will begin at 1.00pm. We will buy some demonstration paddles for the day.”
There is already an annual tournament in Rotorua and it is apparently a high level playing tournament “Grant, one of our Whitianga players, won a bronze medal in the Men’s Doubles at Rotorua. We had six of our players represent us in the finals, so the competition level has been raised another bar,” adds Rachel.
Rachel is full of plans for the future to increase the involvement and places where Pickleball is played. “Karen is our secretary, and she is the one helping us with Sporting New Zealand.
We hope to do a Cooks Beach trial for Pickleball over the summer, as in offering an Open Day. There are three tennis courts. Interested?” The email address is: email@example.com