photocredit: Clear Lake Pickleball

BY: RACHEL WUMKES

It might have a silly name, but that’s just part of what makes the sport of pickleball so great.  The game was created with one agenda in mind: FUN!  Whether you’re five, eighty-five, or somewhere in between, pickleball was designed to be easy to both learn and play.

It truly is a game for all ages.

And no, there are no pickles involved!

Pickleball is traditionally played on a badminton sized court with special paddles made of wood or other hard-composite materials.  The ball is similar to a wiffle ball, but just a tad smaller.  By using a lower net and the slower-paced wiffle ball allows the game to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities.  But beware, some of these players out there are sharks and can really hit the ball!

One of the frequently asked questions we get at the Chamber of Commerce is “Where can I play pickleball in town?”  For years, we didn’t have much of an answer for them.

Until now.

Thanks to Jeff Bertz – who has been aptly branded as “Pickball Jeff” from now on – and his wife, Patty, the sport of pickleball has found a home in Clear Lake.

It started during their winter hiatus in Florida.  Jeff had just recovered from knee replacement surgery and needed something to keep him active but not overly strenuous.  Having played competitive racquetball at one point in his life, pickleball wasn’t too far of a stretch.

The couple began to play, soon realizing how much they enjoyed the sport, which got them thinking.  “I said to Patty one day, how can we get pickleball to Clear Lake in the summer?”  Jeff recalls.  A simple Facebook post on the Clear Lakers page asking for input to gauge the amount of interest was all it took.

“I put that out there on social media,” he said, “and the people just kept commenting!  So, I decided to do something about it.”

Jeff contacted the City of Clear Lake and the school to collaborate on using the tennis courts just east of the high school.  In no time, he had approval to tape off courts and set up the smaller nets.  He started a Facebook group, Clear Lake Pickleball, to keep players up to date on open play times and informed of any happenings for the sport.

Before he knew it, they were up and running in Clear Lake with open play on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 9AM.  In fact, interest in the sport has been so overwhelming, they’ve already added a third pickleball court, with plans to complete a 4th court in the very near future!

While there is limited extra equipment for open play, it is recommended to bring your own paddles for open play.  You can easily purchase a “started set” of paddles, balls and a bag for around $59 online.  Not a bad investment for hours on end of continuous fun while staying active outdoors, right?

If you have any interest in learning more about pickleball, my first course of action is to check out the videos on You Tube.  They highlight the ease of play, as well as the rules to get you familiarized with the game.  However, any skill level is welcome during open play, as it’s a great time to learn the sport and improve your game while doing the real thing.

Jeff encourages anyone who is interested to join the Facebook group, to stay up to date on any updates or additional open play times throughout the week.  It’s a great way to connect to others who enjoy the sport.

And honestly… just get out there and play!  Pickleball is a relatively simple game, one I’m sure you’ll pick up on quickly.  The players are friendly and inclusive, and you are guaranteed a lifetime of fun once you learn this awesome sport!