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                                                                                     By Barbara Fox​

  A new game is sweeping, slowing, into south Florida due to the efforts of one man, Mitchell (Mitch) Ball, a respiratory therapist and organizer of a 150 member running club. Mitch is an avid tennis player, runner, swimmer and biker but hadn’t even heard of this particular game until he was invited to play while vacationing at a nearby resort.   He became an immediate fan and promoter.  The game is Pickleball, a sort of combination table tennis, tennis and badminton.  It’s played with a hard, wooden paddle and a perforated whiffle ball on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court.  The net is similar to tennis net except it is mounted two inches lower.  Pickleball is simple to learn; it can and is played by people of all ages from seniors to teen-agers.  It’s physical, social and just competitive enough to be challenging 
         Pickleball  was created in 1965 by the families of Joel Prichard, a congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, a successful businessman.  The game began in their backyard when their children wanted to play a different variation of badmitten.  They named the game after their dog, Pickle because he was also in the yard and whenever a ball came his way he would take it and run off with it.  Well, it was his ball that they borrowed for the first game.
            After this humble beginning Pickleball took off everywhere, everywhere it seems except South Florida. There is a United States of America Pickleball  Association, (USAPA) a website, tournaments and competitions, even tee-shirts.  It is played at health clubs, communities,(the Villages in North Florida has over one hundred Pickleball courts and one thousand players)  resorts and community centers  all over the country but when Mitch tried to find a court in South Florida (Dade and Broward counties) there weren’t any . He was and is determined to change this, to bring Pickleball to South Florida…
        ”It’s a great sport” Mitch says, “It’s fun, challenging but not too strenuous, anyone can learn to play”.  He became a Pickleball ambassador (really, there are hundreds throughout the country) and set about searching for suitable locations.   He created a Meetup, and already has several members who are ready and anxious to play.   The Meetup is free to join, just go to the site and register/sign-up so you can receive updated information.
                Mitch is in the process of contracting different towns and  communities and is actively searching for court locations so, if anyone knows of a tennis court that would like a second  life as a Pickleball court or has any suggestions for locations  or is interested in playing Pickleball contact him at SUN 259 4711

Pickleball craze hits Tamarac Community Center

There's a new game in town and pickleball is its name. The latest sports craze to hit Florida's Gold Coast was introduced to an enthusiastic crowd at the Tamarac Community Center gymnasium earlier this month.

The sport was invented in 1965 by Washington Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell, and was named after the pet dog, Pickle.

If you can play anything that involves a racquet like tennis, racquetball or ping pong, you can play pickleball. The popularity of the game has struck a chord with senior citizens and there's a legion of loyal followers throughout North America. The Villages in North Florida have more than 125 courts and more than 1,000 players, and the west coast of Florida has caught pickleball fever. If Mitchell Ball has anything to say about it, South Florida will be the next converted area.

Ball, a respiratory therapist, has taken on the role as Pickleball Ambassador of Broward and Miami-Dade counties and is on a mission to promote the sport to the area's large senior citizen population.

"Pickleball is a game for everyone and is the fastest growing senior sport in the country," Ball said. "It's an easy game to pick up, and you can play it indoors or outdoors.

The game is played with wooden or graphite paddles, a wiffle ball and can be played by single or doubles players. The courts are badminton size and the nets are 34 inches high. Four pickleball courts can be fitted into one tennis court. The sport is run by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) that promotes the game, sanctions tournaments and ranks the players.

The demonstration was conducted by Ball and instructors Michelle Moore of Boynton Beach and Marty Charney of Tamarac. A brief history was followed up with a discussion on rules and basics of the game.

"I live for pickleball," a laughing Charney said. "I've played tennis for 40 years, and this is so social and such a nice game. With a small court you have lots of teamwork and strategy."

Women play equally with the men. Canadians Dennis Hradil and his wife Anna call Tamarac their winter home and are big fans of pickleball.

"We play in Canada all the time and at 65 I'm one of the younger players," Dennis Hradil said. "You can play this game into your eighties and I'm happy they're starting this here."

Go to or for more information.

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Pickleball creates a racket for empty roller hockey rinks
As one sport declines, another takes its place.

By Nick Sortal, Staff writer

5:16 a.m. EDT, April 5, 2013

No one gets body-checked, and speedy skaters have been replaced by white-haired folks who often wear knee braces. But at least South Florida's roller-hockey rinks are seeing some action.

Pickleball, a game similar to badminton, is filling up the empty rinks that dot area parks.

"Roller hockey has kind of died off, so we'll give pickleball a shot," said Joe Fazekas, recreation manager for the city of Oakland Park, where an introductory clinic will be held Saturday.


As South Florida's baby boomers begin to age, they may be looking for something more enticing to play than shuffleboard. Hence, pickleball. The game is usually played with a wooden paddle and a sturdier version of a perforated whiffle ball on a court one-third the size of a tennis court. Players often double up, which means even less ground to cover.

In recent years, pickleball has become popular with seniors. One senior community in Central Florida, the Villages, has 108 courts. Pickleball advocates say the sport appeals to people who still have tennis in their hearts, if not in their limbs.

"If you've played any kind of a racquet sport, learning it is almost instantaneous," said John Wilder, of the Palm Beach County Parks Department, which hosts pickleball matches in a roller-hockey practice area at Caloosa Park in Lake Worth. "And there's nothing involving an overhead motion, so people with bad shoulders can play."

South Florida municipalities built roller-hockey rinks shortly after hockey exploded here: In 1996, the Florida Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup final, and kids took to the four ice rinks in the area, then found a palatable substitute in playing the game wearing inline skates.

Since then, the Panthers have faltered. The team's playoff appearance in 2012 was its first in 12 years. Perhaps as a result of the team's troubles, interest in roller hockey is cratering.

"Everybody I've talked to is trying to find another use for their courts," said Don Decker, Weston's park and recreation director and past president of the Florida Recreation and Park Association.

Weston included eight roller hockey rinks when its regional park opened in 2000. It has converted one to a skate park, but is debating what to do with the others, Decker said. Other municipalities, such as Davie, are considering adding artificial turf to create soccer fields. But the town also has painted three pickleball courts length-wise across a roller-hockey rink at Pine Island Park, and could fit six if the concept of a Tuesday-and-Thursday morning league comes to fruition.

Each state has at least one USA Pickleball Association ( "ambassador" — a local advocate — to disseminate information about games and lobby parks to get on board.

Mitchell Ball, of Hallandale Beach, fell in love with the game during a visit to Central Florida and became one of the 51 ambassadors in Florida. He has been in contact with parks directors across Broward County.

"My goal is to open a court a month," he said.

In addition to playing at roller-hockey rinks, Ball can be found at Carter Park in Fort Lauderdale, which included a pickleball court when the park celebrated a renovation in January. He also asks condo associations to add pickleball lines on tennis courts.

Pickleball reportedly was invented in 1965 near Seattle by three children looking to play a variation of badminton. Their dog's name was Pickle, and because he had an affinity for the ball, pickleball was born.

When Delray Beach's Harriet Berks Kalin, an ambassador with her husband, Josh, spreads the word about pickleball, her conversations and e-mails include the same slogan: "Funny name ... great game!"

Aware of the fickle nature of South Florida and recreation, Oakland Park's Fazekas isn't ready to commit fully to painting lines for Saturday's clinic.

"We're going to do them in chalk," he said. "We want to see how it goes before we start painting."

Copyright © 2013, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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