It’s fun, it’s social — but it can also be challenging and ultra competitive the further up the ladder players climb in the pickleball world.
“It’s growing like crazy. Millions of people are playing now. A lot of younger people are playing,” said Redmond professional participant Glen Peterson. “It’s addicting for a lot of us.”
Peterson, 57, took up the sport 10 years ago and recently won both the Men’s Senior Doubles Open, with partner Jay Rippel, and the Men’s Senior Singles Open at the International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia. The Team Selkirk member even helped design his own signature series paddle, the AMPED Omni Midweight.
Peterson often plays pickleball for two to three hours at a time at places like Perrigo Park and the Redmond Senior Center. There are five courts at Perrigo and two at the senior center, and Peterson praised the city of Redmond for setting up the courts — which are one-fourth the size of a tennis court — and getting people playing the sport. At Trilogy at Redmond Ridge, there are eight private courts used by 200-300 members, Peterson said of the pickleball boom.
Pickleball, which was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, is played with a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball and wood or composite paddles about twice the size of table tennis paddles, according to the PickleballCentral.com blog and the United States of America Pickleball Association site.
According to the USAPA site, pickleball’s name is two-fold: The Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles and Pritchard’s wife, Joan, noted, “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”
There’s some tennis in there, some badminton in the mix and some ping pong bouncing around within. It’s got a scrappy image, Peterson said, but there’s a friendly warmth among the players when the games get rolling.
“It’s very simple to pick up a paddle and play. You can become very proficient quickly,” he said. “It’s not just about the sport, it’s about the community. Older people get moving. Two to three hours playing this versus three hours of walking… it’s a nice aerobic exercise.”
He added with a laugh: “One tennis player told me, ‘I gotta learn to be more friendly.’”
Peterson began playing the sport with some friends at the Redmond Senior Center and he was hooked. He also played at the Northshore Senior Center, where his dad, Larry, still graces the court at age 87 for a few days a week. Bothell High folks will remember Larry as a former principal, boys basketball coach and now a member of the Northshore Wall of Honor at Pop Keeney Stadium.
Glen graduated from Bothell High and from the University of Washington with an engineering degree and worked for the Caterpillar Inc. construction machinery and equipment company for 25 years in France, Japan and Canada. He moved back to the area in 2005 and retired in 2008.
He spends a lot of time playing pickleball these days and is a tier-two level champion, not only at the Centralia competition but at the US Open and USAPA nationals, where he’s snagged seven total gold medals and eight silvers.
As for his signature paddle, Peterson said it’s longer than other paddles and has a shorter handle. It gives him a little more reach.
“About an inch makes a lot of difference in the sport,” he said, noting with a laugh what he’s told people about the paddle, “I designed the paddle, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat me.”