PARKS & REC By Debbie Juniewicz, Contributing Writer June 20, 2023
Jeff Jett was certain pickleball wasn’t for him. “Three years ago, we were on vacation and my wife suggested it and I remember thinking I’m not playing anything called ‘pickle’ ball,” Jett said, smiling. It didn’t take long for Jett to change his mind about what is now the fastest growing sport in the country. “Pretty much instantly, my wife and I were both hooked,” he said. Jett – who is typically on the court five times a week – is in good company. The sport, invented in 1965 by three dads determined to keep their kids busy over the summer, had 8.9 million participants in 2022 according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. The appeal and growth of the sport recently led to the creation of the Dayton Pickleball Association. Founder Kelsey Schuering of Washington Township launched the association this spring. “As pickleball is growing, I started to notice that in Dayton that there wasn’t one spot for people to go to, to figure out where to play, how to get started, etc.,” Schuering said. “There were a few Facebook groups and a few group leaders, but I wanted to create that one spot for everyone to find any pickleball information they needed.” That one spot is www.daytonpickleball.com. Learn about the sport, find a place to play, find a coach – it’s all there. And that once reluctant pickleball player is now a certified coach. “If someone would have told me then that this is where I would be, I would have called them crazy,” Jett said. “But I love the game and it’s great to see how it’s growing.” The website and Facebook page are designed to be the place for all things pickleball in Dayton. “We wanted to work with the current facilities and businesses we have in town, to help grow pickleball with them, so we worked with all the local facilities to learn about their pickleball programs and offerings, and ways we can help,” Schuering said. “We will help advertise the pickleball offerings at all these facilities as well as host some DPA events of our own. We will have leagues, events, socials, offer private parties, demo days and pro clinics.”
The association goal is simple – make pickleball accessible to everyone at every level. Information on the website is free and available to everyone. However, DPA membership has its perks including weekly emails and updates, access to the pros, tournament information, social events and discounts at select retailers. Memberships start at just $10 a year. There is also a $50 and $100 level with additional benefits. “We want to be very inclusive,” she said. “We want to get the word out so everyone can play. We love the excitement of pickleball in Dayton.”
Want to get in on the excitement? The J.F. Kennedy Park Pickleball Courts grand opening will be held Sunday, June 25 at 1 p.m. with free learn-to-play opportunities with coaches. Courts will be open after the festivities for open play courts at the Kettering park at 5073 Bigger Road. Pickleball can also be played at the Krock Park Courts at the Salvation Army Dayton Croc Center, 1000 N. Keowee St. For a complete list of venues, visit www.daytonpickleball.com. Pickleball 101 – USA Pickleball Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a perforated plastic ball and composite or wooden paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. -Court size: 20 feet by 44 feet for both singles and doubles. -Non-volley zone: The “kitchen” extends 7 feet back from the net on each side. Pickleball by the Numbers – USA Pickleball 38: The average age of pickleball players nationally. 58: 2023 marks the 58th anniversary of the invention of pickleball. 2,300: The 2022 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships drew nearly 2,300 registered players. 10,724: Places to play pickleball in North America.