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7/30/2014 2:00:00 PM
Pickleball Draws Smiles and Laughter at CLC Y

By Paula Roberts

Joyce Cooley returns a shot as her partner Joanne Cook looks on. (Paula Roberts photo)
Joyce Cooley returns a shot as her partner Joanne Cook looks on. (Paula Roberts photo)
One of the founders of pickleball play at the CLC YMCA, Dick Dunphey returns a shot. (Paula Roberts photo)
One of the founders of pickleball play at the CLC YMCA, Dick Dunphey returns a shot. (Paula Roberts photo)
Two years ago, while preparing for the Senior Games, Jeannie Davis and Dick Dunphey put their heads together, did the necessary research, and organized the sport of pickleball at the CLC YMCA in Damariscotta.

"Jeannie came up with the idea. We went online and found out how to play. We started it from scratch," Dunphey said.

The CLC Y purchased two nets and four paddles to launch the sport that has grown by leaps and bounds. "It most definitely gets bigger every year. It almost gets bigger every week. It is the fastest growing sport" in the United States, Dunphey said.

A group of about 20 regulars play at 10 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays year-round. They range in age from 55 to 80, with the majority between 60 and 70. "Most are retired, but we will take anybody," Dunphey added.

"It is great for cardio," Dunphey said. "It doesn't look like it to watch it, but if you get out and play it is very good for cardio," a sweaty and slightly out-of- breath Dunphey said as he came off the court.

"You don't have to be a great tennis player to play pickleball. You can have bad eyes and bad knees," Dunphey said. Dunphey said currently they have four tennis players, a couple of racquetball players and one platform ball player among the group. "A lot of us never played a racquet sport at all," Dunphey said.

"What I like the most about it is you look around and you see everyone smiling. They are having a good time. It is fun for all of us. It is not about winning, it is about having a lot of fun. And it gets rid of the boredom you have acquired" after retiring, Dunphey said.

The CLC Y has two pickleball courts located in the main building, on an old tennis court. The colorful green ball resembles a whiffle ball. "The ultra light paddles are made from recycled aircraft flooring. The inside is like a honeycomb," Dunphey said.

Four pickleball courts can fit on a standard tennis court. While the CLC Y has only four paddles to loan out, Dunphey said it is no problem, as "people share their paddles. Most, after they play awhile, want to go out and buy one. The only place you can buy them is online. They cost $70 to $80 each. They are a good investment, but you don't want to buy one until you're sure you want to play."

Fred Palsgrove keeps coming back week after week. He says it is not about the sport, but the "people are the reason. It is not super competitive. It is the camaraderie. It is a good way to socialize."

Susan Beaudette wholeheartedly agreed with Palsgrove, adding "we don't take ourselves too seriously."

Jeff Cook said he enjoys playing pickleball over "any other sport I've ever played."

The game originated in 1965 on Brainbridge Island in Washington at the home of State Rep. Joel Pritchard. After setting up a badminton net, no one could find the shuttlecock, so they improvised with a whiffle ball. They lowered the net and fashioned paddles out of plywood.

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized net (20-by-44) and can be played singles or doubles. The CLC Y group plays doubles using a round-robin model, where teams sit after playing a round.

The serve is underhand and across court, similar to tennis. Points can only be scored by the serving team, games are to 11, and games must be won by two points.

After serving, there is a two-bounce rule, where the ball must bounce in the receiving court before being hit, and then must bounce in the server's court before being played. After the ball has bounced twice (once in each side of the court) the ball may be hit in the air.

Players must be sure they do not hit the ball in the air while standing in the non-volley zone (the kitchen), which refers to an area of the court 7 feet from the net.

Anyone interested in playing pickleball is encouraged to stop by the CLC Y and try their hand.

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