Delaware’s latest craze: Pickleball [video]

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    Georgia Billger credits pickleball with saving her life. (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    Georgia Billger credits pickleball with saving her life. (Andrea Gibbs/WHYY)

    It’s a simple game with a funny name and it’s sweeping the country. Pickleball!

    “Pickleball was originally discovered or founded in 1965 by Senator Joel Prichard of Washington State,” Kathy Casey of the First State Pickleball Club in Lewes explained.

    As the story goes, the senator returned home from a game of golf with some friends and needed an activity that all of the family members could participate in. Casey said Prichard grabbed whatever he saw. “So he went into the garage, pulled out what he thought was going to be like badminton and he couldn’t find enough racquets for that, but he did find ping pong paddles and he found some wiffle balls.” With that “pickleball” was born.

    If you stumble upon a pickleball match, it may look like the players are playing tennis, badminton or ping-pong. Pickleball is played on a court about the size of a third of a tennis court with lightweight paddles and a wiffle-like ball. But it’s the rules of the game that makes this sport so much fun because it takes away the aggression seen in other paddle sports, according to First State Pickleball Club’s Vaughn Baker.

    And he isn’t the only one that thinks that.

    Husband and wife pickleball pair, Tim and Diane Baine, also agree. “It’s addictive, once you start playing you find yourself wanting to come out on a regular basis.” Tim says the rigorous movement has helped him drop pounds and, as a result, he no longer has to take medication for his type-2 diabetes. “The A1C has gone down dramatically to where I’m not even diabetic at this stage.”

    77-year-old Georgia Billger believes pickleball saved her life. “I had open heart surgery. I had a quadruple bypass and when I went into the hospital, they said I had to be the healthiest person in the hospital, aside from the blocked artery. It’s because I was so physically active with pickleball. And because I was, the blood found other roots to go to the heart, so I didn’t have a heart attack, and I had a quick recovery.”

    Delaware is now taking notice of pickleball.

    “A year ago when I would try to talk to people, people didn’t know what pickleball was. Now, everyone knows what pickleball is,” Baker said. There are also more places to play pickleball in Delaware, including 3 new pickleball courts at the Kent County Recreation Center.

    Want to play? Log onto the Delaware Pickleball website at www.delawarepickleball.com to find a court near you.

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