Those driving by the KCC in the evening this summer might have noticed a group of people playing a strange variation of "mini-tennis." The game is known as pickleball, which, according to NBC, is the fastest growing sport in America. We sat down with Jim Ford to learn more about the game and the Granite Falls group that enjoys it so much.
The Granite Falls Pickleball players started about five years ago. Jim and Colleen Ford were traveling in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Colleen noticed a recreation ad, checked it out, and then got Jim hooked. They knew they had to bring the game back to Granite Falls. Starting out, it was a struggle to fill a single court, which would require four players. Ford recalls having to call high school students he knew played tennis to come fill in for a 4th player.
Now, the program has outgrown the current space available. Ford estimates there are 34 adults that play on a regular basis, plus some children that come with, and that's just in the evening group. There's also a morning group, which has a consistent 12-15 players. The evening group plays outside from May through October, before transitioning indoors. The morning group plays indoors year round.
Now that the season is transitioning to Fall, the evening group has moved from the KCC to the pair of courts adjacent to the softball field. Those courts are lit, but only allow eight players at a time to play. Ford has put in a proposal to have lights added to the KCC tennis courts, which would allow up to 16 people to play at a time even when the sun gets lower in the evening.
His long term goal is to get, ideally, a five court area of dedicated pickleball courts somewhere in Granite.
The courts are a little smaller than tennis courts. This makes the game very quick to pick up, even without a tennis background. According to Ford, "I can get someone playing and having success in 15 minutes. Kids love it."
Not only kids play. There are regulars in their 70’s that hang just as well as the 18 year olds. The game is a lot more about placement that speed and power.
The Community Ed. Program has adopted the Granite Falls Pickleball Players. They provided money for paint, which are the black lines visible on the tennis courts, and also provided money for a few dozen balls. Jim Ford found some used racket bundles to get a collection of paddles for people to use.
You don’t need to bring anything, not even a partner. After every game, people switch partners and opponents to get to know everyone. The entire group is very casual, social, and supportive. Notably, the players will cheer for good shots even when an opponent hits a fantastic shot.
Ford does his best to get everyone involved and playing with and against everyone. Ford added, “I think if we can get some permanent courts, the number of players will increase. And we'd have people playing five nights a week, we (the current group) certainly would be.”