In 1965, when Joel Pritchard and two of his friends devised a backyard game named pickleball on Bainbridge Island, Washington, they likely had no idea that in the year 2022 it would be adopted as the state’s official sport. 

While there are different stories as to how the game got its name, the fact remains that it’s as popular today as it has ever been.  

Though most people think of pickleball as a game popular with California and Florida retirees, the sport is quickly picking up popularity with people of all ages and abilities. 

Join Brian Sullivan and spend a weekend in Municipal Park, home of the lively and growing Westfield Pickleball Club. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: In 1965, when Joel Pritchard and two of his friends devise a backyard game named pickleball on Bainbridge Island, Washington, they likely had no idea that in the year 2022 it would be adopted as the state’s official sport.

And while many may think of it as a game relegated to the retirement communities of Florida or California, after spending a weekend with the Westfield Pickleball Club, Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan learned that it’s a game for all ages and abilities.

Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: From outside this fence, it may sound like someone is cooking up the slowest popping batch of popcorn. From the inside, it has all the makings of a round robin tournament.

The game is called pickleball, and now, in its sixth decade of existence, more people than ever are familiar with its intricacies and peculiarities. But for the uninitiated, here’s a quick summary…

Scott Labombard, Westfield Pickleball: It’s a hybrid of tennis, ping pong, racquetball. And that’s — that’s why you see a lot of these different players here, is they played all these different racket sports.

And it’s just a great transition, you know, out of those sports into something new.

Brian Sullivan: This is a typical packed crowd for a weekend here at Municipal Park in Westfield, especially one with such nice weather.

However, these six courts weren’t always in this tip top condition that we’re seeing now. But thanks to the persistence of some ardent lovers of this game, they were able to secure the funding necessary to transform them into what they are today.

Shannon Small, Westfield Pickleball: These were clay courts here in Westfield, but they were under disrepair. So and I said, “Let’s get a group together.”

And we kept petitioning the city. We knew that the state house had some money, so we asked that they go down there and get that money as well and build these courts here for dedicated pickleball courts, which is one of the fastest up and growing sports.

And we knew it would happen and these courts would always be full. And usually, any time you come down here, early morning or late in the afternoons, these courts are filled. So, it was a joint effort between Nancy Stolpinksi and myself to make this wonderful facility happen with the city of Westfield and our old mayor, Brian Sullivan.

Brian Sullivan: Different Brian Sullivan.

This one took some coaxing to get out on these courts, because the slogan for the club is “Pickleball for all,” and they certainly live up to it.

Jim Lotatt, for example, is in his eighties and still delivers the goods. Denise Roy is by no means letting her modified wheelchair slow her down, and they’re both solid players.

For those of us still learning, they’ve got some side courts for practicing and picking up on the fundamentals. Like this little area up by the net is known as the kitchen. And I learned that if someone steps into my kitchen, they’re going to pay for that meal.

They say it looks like checkers but plays like chess. I say it looks like doubles ping pong on a life sized table. Whatever it is, it’s a lot of fun and it’s bringing a lot of people out here to these courts.

All fun aside, health and safety always top the priority list here, and not just for things like breaks and sprains. This park was the recipient of a donated AED box from the Kevs Foundation, a 500 1c3, started by Susan Canning, whose son Kevin Major passed from an unexpected cardiac event at the age of 19.

Anyone thinking a pickleball court isn’t a prime location for this type of thing would be mistaken.

Susan Canning, Kevs Foundation: We actually had a cardiac event.

Luckily, the Kevs Foundation months earlier had donated an AED, plus the emergency box, and within 85 seconds, the community members playing pickleball with the gentleman that had the event went into action, called 911, grabbed the code, opened the box, grab the AED while somebody else was performing CPR.

And we have a fantastic, successful story and that’s what we’re looking to do.

Brian Sullivan: Members pay a nominal fee of $10 per year, which is good for the club because it gives them the insurance coverage. Players, in turn have access to these courts and tournament schedules, and for anyone without equipment, they’ve got plenty of that to go around even as the numbers continue to grow.

If this club was just a plan on paper a few years ago, it’s safe to say that it’s been a successful mission so far, and everyone involved couldn’t be happier with the results.

Joe Zazzaro, Westfield Pickleball: It’s pickleball for all here in Westfield. There’s nothing better than having people of all ages be able to compete.

But the thing that’s incredible process, it’s fun. They have so much fun and we want it to be fun. That’s the thing. Everyone’s social. Everyone has so much fun playing pickleball and we accept everyone.

We have a huge pickleball community here in Westfield. It’s awesome!