In a pickle
Pickleball camaraderie, fun relished by local group
Pickleball — it’s the new big “dill” in sports and recreation that is sweeping the nation, Marquette County included.
“It is the fastest growing sport in America. And it’s not just seniors that are playing it, there’s teenagers, it’s being included in gym classes, there’s all different age levels that are playing now,” Barb Maszlewski of Superiorland Pickleball said.
Pickleball is a paddle-based sport that combines elements of tennis, pingpong and badminton. Maszlewski, herself a former tennis player, said that skills learned in other sports involving a paddle or racket translate well to pickleball.
It can be played by people of all ages and abilities — many find the sport is a fun and low-impact alternative to traditional paddle-based sports.
“There’s plenty of (people with) knee replacements and hip replacements here and people who have had shoulder surgery,” Maszlewski said, explaining that pickleball can be less stressful on joints than other sports.
The official rulebook even includes accommodations and considerations for players who are in wheelchairs or may have other mobility constraints. It’s a way to “get moving and yet not get too terribly stressful,” Maszlewski explained.
Pickleball is a sport that is flexible and adaptable to many ages, group sizes, skill levels and climates, as pickleball can be played as singles or doubles, on indoor or outdoor courts.
During the winter months, the Superiorland Pickleball club plays pickleball indoors in the gym at the Marquette Senior Center, located at 300 West Baraga Ave., five days a week. They play starting at 10:15 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Afternoons are also available, with pickleball starting at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is a $2 cost to play, with rackets and balls freely available for use.
Maszlewski said there are also indoor pickleball options at the YMCA and Northern Michigan University’s PEIF, which are free to people who have memberships with those organizations.
As summer and warmer weather approaches, the options for playing pickleball become more numerous — as do the players, Maszlewski said, as many of their premier players are “snowbirds,” who head south and hone their pickleball skills over the winter.
“In the summertime, we have a lot of people … We go between Sands (Township) courts and then the (Lakeview) Arena, because once the ice comes out at the arena, they take all the nets (from the Marquette Senior Center gym) and move them over there, then we don’t have to take them down and put them up. They just leave them up for us there,” Gayla St. Onge of Superiorland Pickleball said.
The players said they are grateful for the multiple venues and community support for the sport, noting that Sands Township and Marquette have been “extremely wonderful and accommodating.”
If potential players are “in a pickle” about how to get started, Superiorland Pickleball members encourage them to drop in and give it a try.
The group welcomes newcomers, who can stop in to play pickleball during the regular play times and learn the ropes from mentors who have pickleball experience. If there are multiple “newbies,” they can play matches and practice together as they learn, but if not, the other, more experienced players are happy to play with them and help them learn along the way.
The members of Superiorland Pickleball emphasize fun, recreation and fellowship in their play, showing true camaraderie and sportsmanship to one another.
“It’s just a really nice community. … It’s really good fellowship,” St. Onge said, noting that she joined in February 2017 with encouragement from Maszlewski. Now, St. Onge plays five to six times a week.
They even had their own pickleball tournament last year.
“We’re primarily recreational here; we did have a fun tournament last summer, just our group, our club. Not even everybody played in it, but we just had a fun group … It was very informal, but we had medals and stuff,” Maszlewski said. “It was fun, it was a blast; we had a potluck, it was great … It’s a real social thing.”
If you’re still pickling over whether pickleball might be for you, Superiorland Pickleball members invite interested parties to drop in or visit their Facebook page. For videos, history and a detailed explanation of the rules, visit https://www.usapa.org/what-is-pickleball/. The Marquette Senior Center, located at 300 West Baraga Ave. in Marquette, with entrances located on Spring Street, can be reached at 906-228-0456.