America’s fastest-growing fitness sport gains steam locally

by Dan Holland

Pickleball is quickly becoming one of America’s fastest-growing and most popular fitness sports, as evidenced by dedicated programs that have been incorporated into recreation programs in both Brecksville and Broadview Heights.

“It’s one of those sports that anyone can play without having to sprint all over a tennis court,” explained Broadview Heights Assistant Recreation Director Ryan Meyer. “It’s a cross between table tennis and regular tennis. It’s just a fun sport that is very accessible.”

Pickleball is a paddleball sport played on a 20’ x 44’ court with a 36-inch-high net. Competitors – usually paired up as doubles – serve and volley back and forth a polymer “wiffle” ball containing between 26 – 40 holes.

“The reason it’s becoming so popular is that it is an alternative for people who used to play tennis, or if you might have some physical limitations due to joint problems,” said Brecksville Recreation Director Rachele Engle. “It gives you the ability to work on your reflexes and hand-eye coordination without putting excessive strain on your body like a game of pick-up basketball or some other sports would. We have people of all age groups asking about it and showing up to play.”

Areas of the basketball courts in both the Broadview Heights Recreation Center and the Brecksville Community Center gymnasium are set up for pickleball on certain days and times.

Some participants, such as Scott Campbell of Brecksville, play pickleball in both cities as well as in nearby Independence.

“It’s a fast-growing sport, but a lot of people still don’t know what it is,” explained Campbell. “We just started playing a few years back, and it has really been growing. I was up here working out a while back, and I ran into Rachel Engle and told her I would like to talk about having indoor pickleball in Brecksville, and she had already been looking into getting a program going. She was very positive and accommodating.”

Bob Peshek, of Broadview Heights, said he has been playing the sport for five years.

“I love the competition,” said Peshek. “I played ping pong and racquetball in my younger days; it’s great fun and it builds a lot of camaraderie. We tease each other and just have a great time. I play four- to-five days a week. The tournaments are a great time; there are more and more of them springing up around this area, as pickleball is supposed to be the fastest growing sport in the country.”

The sport, which can be played year-round indoors, has seen as many as 36 participants on certain days, said Meyer. Six courts can be activated at once in the Broadview Heights Recreation Center.

Brecksville currently provides up to four courts at its community center, and has seen as many as 24 participants in a day, said Engle. The activity will be moved to the city’s new fieldhouse on the Blossom Hill property located along Oakes Road when it opens later this spring.