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pickleball

VIDEO: Pickleball in south London — the American sport getting players hooked

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, with more than four million players taking up the game. 

The craze for the racquet sport, best described as a medley of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, has boomed over the last year in the US. 

But now pickleball is becoming more popular in the UK too, with around 4,000 people playing in England and Wales. 

A south London pickleball team snapped up 14 bronze, silver and gold medals at the English Nationals held in Bolton earlier this month. 

South London Area Pickleball Club (SLAP) has 40 members and was set up by Mike Daly and Jane McGuire after they were introduced to the sport in Arizona in 2012.

Daly said: “We were playing tennis and a friend asked us to play this strange sport with her. Thirty minutes later and we were hooked.” 

Their nearest club in the UK was 40 miles away so, after getting stuck in motorway traffic jams, they took the leap and set up their own club.

Members train at Richard Challoner School on Tuesdays and Tadworth Leisure and Community Centre on Fridays and Sundays.

Player involvement in the US has increased by 21.3% according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association and the sport is so fashionable it even has a new magazine dedicated to it.

David Lloyd Leisure is jumping on the trend and has introduced pickleball to 15 clubs so far. 

McGuire and Daly’s UK Pickleball Shop is the equipment supplier for David Lloyd and is supporting the sport provider in its pickleball roll-out.

Daly said: “Our aim has been to provide the equipment we want ourselves as pickleball players, so the best paddles from the top manufacturers, the best nets and balls you get in the US you can now get in the UK shop.”

What is pickleball?

Pickleball, which was created in 1965, can be played indoors or outdoors, and as singles or doubles.

Players use a wooden paddle to hit a plastic ball, called a wiffle ball, over the net in a badminton-sized court.  

It was accidentally invented on Bainbridge Island when US Congressman Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell tried to entertain their families with the only equipment they had: a badminton court, ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball.

If the defending side hits the ball out or fails to return the ball, the serving side wins a point. 

The no-volley zone near the net is known as the ‘kitchen’ so the player must let the ball bounce before hitting it if they stand in this area.

Part of the sport’s appeal is that it is easy to pick up and can be played by people of all ages.

SLAP founder McGuire said: “We have ranges of ages from 10 to 85. It is easy to pick up. You can be on court and playing, and within five or ten minutes getting a rally going.

“Most people end up at the intermediate stage having a really nice game.”

SLAP member Barbara Fry said: “I enjoy the exercise and the social side. I’m quite competitive so it’s a challenge and it keeps me fit.”

To find out more about SLAP, check out the club’s Facebook page. 

Featured image credit: Michael & Sherry Martin (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.)

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