This week, 736 registered players gathered at the Opelika Sportsplex to play a game most of us probably hadn’t heard of a few years ago. Although this game has nothing to do with cucumbers, neither sweet nor dill, it’s called Pickleball. Pickleball is all the rage these days. The Opelika Sportsplex facility has 24 covered and lighted, state-of-the-art pitches. It is the fastest growing sport in our country. It’s a fun form of exercise, recreation, and community that almost anyone can play. It’s a social game where we often throw ourselves into a game with people we’ve never met.
I’ve always loved sports. For most of my life, I have particularly enjoyed playing sports that involve hitting a ball with a racquet, paddle, or racquet. In the 1970s, tennis was madness. Tennis courts were built across the country. Tennis was the first racquet sport I learned to play. My hometown of Rainsville built 2 tennis courts in the city park back then. It was so popular that we had to wait our turn to get a dish.
A decade later, racquetball was the game. It was loud and fast. I played once and loved it. After that I played tennis one or two more times and from there it was racquetball. That was 35 years ago and I still play 2-3 times a week if possible. However, many of the racquetball players I used to play with have switched to pickleball entirely. I’m retired so I play both.
Perhaps my love for these games can be traced back to my early childhood. Long before I played tennis, racquetball, or pickleball, I played paddleball with a bolo paddle. This game was played with a small wooden paddle to which a small red rubber ball was attached with a long rubber band. Of course, when you hit the ball with the racquet, it went to the end of the rubber band and quickly bounced back toward you. The harder you hit the ball, the faster it returns. The object of the game was to hit the ball every time it came back (while not knocking out your eye). An advanced player could hit it dozens of times in a row. It took a lot of skill and practice to hit the ball more than two or three times. It was loads of fun. Some paddles even had the words “It’s Fun” painted directly on the paddle. It was a wonderful way to waste time. It was also fun hitting your older sister with the ball. Well, it was fun until Mom caught me and took my paddle and used it for other purposes. Mom wasn’t very good at hitting the ball, but I guess that wasn’t her goal!
Who would have thought then where this silly game with bat and rubber ball would lead me? Now let’s get moving. go out and play It’s fun… and good for us!
Bill King is a minister, author, singer/songwriter, and performer as a bro. Billy Bob Bohannon (www.brobillybob.com). Contact him at [email protected]