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Woodbury resident Donna Carroll got a volley in during a pickleball session on Thursday, Aug. 26 at Pioneer Park. Staff Photo by Tom Carothers.

Pickleball enthusiasts hope sport catches on in Woodbury

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From a distance, the scene appears to be just a grouping of people enjoying a game of tennis. However, move a little closer and you will notice that it is not tennis at all - this is pickleball and it is one of the newest and hottest sports on the nation's recreational scene.

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Pickleball, originally invented in the mid-1960's, could be described as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The size of the court, 20 feet by 44 feet, is the same dimensions as a badminton court. The game is played with a hard paddle and a wiffle ball and can be played solo or in a team of two.

"It's a sport really designed to get you moving and to get long volleys going," said Jim Propes, who organized the pickleball program now sponsored by Woodbury Parks and Recreation. "It's a sport designed to have people play and get exercise."

Propes, a Woodbury resident who moved here a few years ago from Texas, said he was introduced to pickleball from an article he saw in an Edina newspaper.

"I was looking for something to do in the summer," he said. "I knew that there were people in Woodbury that wanted to play pickleball and Polly Blom over at Parks and Rec was very receptive.

"I said that if they'll paint a court, I'll run some classes."

Hence, pickleball was officially born in Woodbury. The first official pickleball clinic was run on Tuesday, Aug. 17 and the sport is scheduled to be played at Pioneer Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Oct. 28.

"We will run formal lessons from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and then have open play until 11:30," Propes said. "We have a lot of beginners out here, but they really get the ball going well."

Approximately 14 people showed up for the initial sessions of the program, Propes said, with the majority counting themselves among the elder demographic of the area.

"The sport is tuned well to seniors," he said. "It's easier on the knees and ankles."

Woodbury resident Donna Carroll, who moved to the area from Duluth a year ago said that, "anyone who plays the game absolutely loves it."

Carroll, who had knee surgery, said that the size of the court and the pace of play is not as taxing physically as tennis.

"Our kids love it and I've played for about five years and love it," she said. "It's not too hard on all those joints. It's great for seniors."

The younger generation is taking up the sport as well. Oak-Land Junior High in Lake Elmo teaches pickleball as part of its physical education regimen and boasts three courts. The University of Minnesota also has a pickleball class among its academic choices.

"We did have a young guy - 14--out here, but to me anyone under 50 is a 'young guy,'" said the 64-year-old Propes. "If interest holds (in Woodbury) we would also like to also start an evening game aimed more at those younger folks."

For more on pickleball, log on to the USA Pickleball Association website at www.usapa.org.

For more information on the pickleball program in Woodbury, log on to the city's Parks and Rec website at www.ci.woodbury.mn.us/parks/parks.html.

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