By Judy Stiles
Pickles aren’t usually part of breakfast, but pickleball, on the other hand, is served most mornings at the Dare County Youth Center at Family Recreation Park in Kill Devil Hills. Rather than pickles, players need a paddle, wiffleball, net, playing surface, and at least one other player to hit the pitch.
Games are played indoors or outdoors on a badminton court with a 34-inch high net. The object of the game, like tennis, ping pong and badminton, is to hit the ball back and forth across the net with the aim of preventing the opposing player/team from returning the ball. The ball is a larger and lighter wiffleball than a tennis ball. Matches can be played in singles or doubles.
Dozens of players were at the outdoor games held at the Dare County Recreation Center on Friday morning, July 1. Several plays took place on the pitch as other players stood on the sidelines awaiting their turn. As soon as one group of players finished their game, another group of four players entered the field.
USA Pickleball is the national governing body for pickleball in the United States. The group provides players with official rules, tournaments, rankings and promotional material. Kill Devil Hills resident Scott Garber is the Dare County Pickleball Ambassador. USA Pickleball currently has over 2,000 volunteer ambassadors who promote pickleball in their area.
According to a press release from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball has been the fastest growing sport over the past two years, with participation growing nearly 40%.
There are approximately five million gamers in the United States, and adults over the age of 54 make up the largest group of gamers. However, younger players participate more and the average player age is 38.
Garber described pickleball as addictive. “My wife introduced me to the game,” he said. “Once I played I was hooked. It’s a fun and social game that anyone can play.
Garber explained that the game is easy to learn and most beginner players will learn the rules and be on the court in 10 to 15 minutes. The ease of learning the game can be one of the things that attracts players to the field; however, several people playing at the Dare County Recreation Grounds said it was the fun, fitness, and friendliness of the band that kept them coming back.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when safe distancing was needed, pickleball gave players the opportunity to safely distance themselves and socialize. All ages – seniors, adults and children – can play together.
Pickleball is a favorite pastime for many seniors as it helps keep them active and moving and the smaller size of the court lessens the physical impacts.
While new players are welcome to join the Outer Banks pickleball pool, there are concerns that wait times will increase as new players join. Several athletes on the sideline mentioned that waiting to play was the most difficult thing to play.
Garber expressed concern that the number of players has exceeded the number of spots to play in Dare County. Garber asked why county occupancy tax funds do not fund the recreation department and, in particular, adult recreation programs such as pickleball.
USA Pickleball has developed a website – www.places2play.org – to help people find places to play pickleball. The site lists Outer Banks locations as follows:
Currituck Senior Center
130, community road
Barco, North Carolina 27917
Dare County Recreation Center
602 Mustian Street
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948
Dowdy Park – Nags Head Parks Department
3005 S Croatan Highway
Nags Head, North Carolina 27959
Center of Fessenden
Court of Fessenden
Buxton, North Carolina 27920
Outer Banks Family YMCA
3000 Southern Croatian Highway
Nags Head, North Carolina 27959
Pine Island Snowshoeing and Fitness
290 Audubon Dr.
Corolla, North Carolina 27927
1000 Westcott Park Road
Manteo, North Carolina 27954
Garber administers a Facebook site – OBX Pickleball Group – dedicated to communicating with pickleball players in the Outer Banks region. Anyone interested in playing pickleball in the Outer Banks is welcome to join the group.
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