On Monday and Wednesday mornings, you’ll find a group of pickleball players on several courts behind the Chelsea Senior Center.
In fact, you’ll find a group on Tuesday evenings as well.
Thanks to the interest of Gary and Linda Leonard, who began playing this modified tennis/ping-pong game in Florida, pickleball is gaining in popularity in Chelsea.
The game got its name from a family dog (Pickles) who would grab the stray balls, Gary Leonard says, and take off with them.
Players come to Chelsea from Manchester, Grass Lake, Stockbridge and Dexter to play pickleball, Gary Leonard says, adding that the senior center is trying to gather more players from the Chelsea community.
It’s a game that grandfathers and grandsons can play together he says because unlike tennis, it’s not as much about power and athleticism, rather positioning the ball and getting to the net. Think a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong.
Plus, the senior center applied for, and got, a $250 grant that was used to purchase balls and racquets so more people can give the game a whirl.
And says Trinh Pifer, the senior center director, the school district has helped out tremendously by painting permanent lines on the badmitten-sized courts. Currently, there are three.
“Pickelball has been described as ping-pong on steriods,” Gary Leonard says of the game that’s gaining in popularity across the country and even has a national governing body called the USA Pickleball Association.
All serving must be done below the waist, or underhand, and is played doubles style with a net that’s 34 inches at its center. Players use a whiffle ball-like plastic balls and wood or composite paddles.
The players are on the courts at 9 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings and there’s no charge to play at this point.
Points are only scored by the serving team and games go to 11 points. You must win by two points.
“The advantage is to get to the net first,” Gary Leonard says, “And to position the ball.”
The game has brought new people to the senior center he says. “We’ve had 17 or 18 people here to play.”
Games last about 15 minutes, he says.
Although there are racquets available, graphite or composite ones cost between $60-$80, while the wooden ones are about $12-$15.
A pickelball costs about $2.
So stop on by on Tuesday evenings to check it out as the courts are open to the community, Gary Leonard says.
The group just might make a pickleball enthusiast out of you.