Pickleball. Despite its funny name, its popularity in Haywood county is far from a laughing matter. The sport has become a local favorite and what some consider “one of the fastest growing sports around.”
Women and men flood the Old Armory and the Recreation Center in Waynesville, ready to take to the court. Those who are ready to show off their skills sit patiently on the benches and wait for their rotation to be up for the next open court.
Pickleball is described as a mixture of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, and Haywood County residents can’t get enough of it.
The town offers tournaments, play time, clinics and even different levels, from beginner to intermediate to advanced players in multiple locations, six times a week.
“We offer specific times for every skill level,” said Rhett Langston, director of the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department. “We now offer pickleball in two locations in order to keep up with the demand.”
“Great people play this game,” said Kathy Schroeder of Cincinnati, who plays pickleball in Waynesville whenever she’s in Haywood County.
Schroeder, who visits Waynesville with her husband often, had some words of advice to those interested in starting out.
“I would definitely start with a beginner lesson. A lot of people think they can just come on the court and kind of read the rules and figure it out, but I think there’s some good lessons and materials out there,” Schroeder shared.
The best way to feel out the pickleball scene in Waynesville is to participate in the upcoming Pickleball Clinic and Demo, which will be held Tuesday, July 9 at the Waynesville Recreation Center. Beginners are welcome and encouraged to come to the clinic and begin their involvement in the sport.
Those who are already involved in the sport are also encouraged to come and sharpen their skills with the clinic instructors.
“The clinic is to help introduce the beginners to the game,” said the coordinator of the clinic, Michael Tate. “For the intermediates to improve their skills and the advanced to play with other advanced players.”
The Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department is dedicated to growing the diversity of its pickleball players.
“It is a terrific sport and our goal is to not only introduce it to more seniors but to a younger audience, as well,” said Langston. “It’s good for those 7-92. And we have some people that are 92,” said Tate.
Whether it’s in a play session, in a clinic or by word of mouth, everyone seems to have their own story about how they got involved in the sport.
“I had friends that played and they said ‘give it a try,’” Schroeder said. While some hear it through word of mouth, others just stumbled upon it.
“We came in and stood at the door and a nice lady named Kelly said ‘Come in, please come in and try it,’” Bonny Chamberlin said about her and her husband Ronny.
They didn’t stop there, though.
“We came in and it was so much fun. We just progressed from there,” she said.
Although the current players all have their own ways of how they got involved in the sport, they all have the same thing in common; they all began at a beginner level and moved up from there.
Those interested in beginning their pickleball journey should sign up for the Pickleball Clinic and Demo, which will be held from 10 a.m.-noon on Tuesday, July 9 at the Waynesville Recreation Center. The cost is $10 per person.