Last week I pickleballed. I went pickleballing. I played pickleball. Rick Hum gave me a private lesson on the indoor courts at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds. Rick is a fantastic instructor. While we practiced, I felt like I was a complete natural ‒ an observation I smartly kept to myself, for later it would prove to be wrong.
The size of a pickleball court is a third of a tennis court. The area closest to the net is referred to as “the kitchen.” You are not allowed to enter the kitchen unless the ball bounces into it first. At learning this, my mind buzzes with adages like “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” and the more offensive, “A woman’s place is in the home (and kitchen).” As a non-cook, it’s refreshing to find that the kitchen area is to be mostly avoided.
Rick and I practiced the art of “dinking,” which is hitting the ball gently over the net so it bounces in the kitchen. This is when I believed I’d found my true recreational-sport calling.
Then we moved to the long game. Rick taught me how to serve: underhand and to the opposite quadrant. A served ball needs to bounce once before being returned and (this is the part I just couldn’t grasp) then one bounce before being hit again. I kept trying to run up on the returned serve and smack it before it hit the ground. This was wrong, and I was told several times. Rick kept joking, “Oh, I forgot to tell you that part.” Classic pickleball jokes.
When I would return a tricky shot I heard encouraging words like “Good get!” Everyone I met on the courts was welcoming and friendly.
Scoring is similar to volleyball because you can only score while you’re serving.
Since there are only two courts at the fairgrounds, all games are played doubles to get as many people as possible playing at once. Standard play is the first to score 11, and you must win by two points. However, Rick said sometimes they will play to 9 if there are a lot of people waiting.
Pickleball is growing in popularity, and there are many opportunities to play both recreationally and competitively in Chaffee County. Rick’s wife, Sue Ann, told me pickleball “is not just for us older folks,” which I believe to be true, but on Thursday I was definitely the youngest.
Rick helped write a Great Outdoors Colorado grant with Salida Art and Recreation Director Theresa Casey for the soon-to-open pickleball and tennis courts at the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center.
When the courts open, hopefully in May, there will be two tennis courts with the ability for up to eight pickleball courts. Rick explained that eight is the desired number to host tournaments. If the tennis courts are generously spaced, which these are, four pickleball courts can fit on one tennis court.
Playing outside will be nice because hitting the chandeliers at the fairgrounds is considered a “redo” and the ceiling is “out.”
Rick said, “Not everyone has to deal with chandeliers when they play pickleball, but we’re fancy.”
I enjoyed pickleball and will totally play again. See you on the courts?