Hammertime: From tennis to pickle ball

Enjoying the fun sporting events, and now pickle ball, in this week’s Hammertime

Mike Rainone


When I was growing up on the grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital far too many years ago I really got hooked on the fast-paced game of tennis and spent lots of my spring and summer hours on the old shale courts across from the original nurses’ home.

All of us children of staff members living up on the grounds were really lucky, getting to curl on the old two sheeter and skate on the outdoor rink in the winter, and then playing tennis under the direction of a former old pro by the name of Edward Beard, as long as we were willing to help with the clean-up and sweeping.

Both boys and girls played from dawn until dusk for years against each other, and the real special treat was to enter into a tournament, playing against some hot-shots from town, and maybe even getting to play a little mixed doubles with that really cute girl from down the block. It was great exercise and lots of running, and in those days you could buy a racket and a tin of balls for fewer than five bucks at the local hardware store. All that kind of innocent and invigorating fun lasted until we entered into our ‘terrible teens’, and then our raging hormones were transferred from the court to courting, and to all sorts of other sports where we longed to become a member of the ‘in crowd.’

I still have a couple of my old tennis rackets collecting dust in my condo storage area, but the last time I remembered playing a set or two was against my son and grandsons, who gave me a pretty good whoopin’. Like most of you in our ‘Golden Years’ I still try to stay in some sort of fair shape by walking as much as I can, bowling a lot slower than I used to, and hanging out with my buddies, who can now talk a good game over coffee and always need a nap after 15 minutes on the treadmill. But all is not lost for those men and women of the senior set who still like to kick up our heels once in a while and not just out on the dance floor, as the fabulous game of pickle ball has now taken the nation by storm.

So how did this new game with the strange name originate?

Apparently a man from Washington State had a dog named Pickles who loved to chase whiffle balls around the field, and loved it so much that the family invented a racquet game called pickle ball in honour of their rambunctious puppy. Pickle ball is a combination game of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, usually played all year round, in gymnasiums in the winter or on outdoor tennis courts during the hot months. Participants of all ages use a round paddle to bat around a small lightweight ball with holes in it across a badminton net that has been reversed lower across the middle of a regulation size badminton court.

Many of those who have taken up this extremely popular sport of pickle ball, especially older adults are claiming that the game is low impact and casual, much more forgiving than tennis, and a whole lot easier on the body. The game is easy to play, can be played co-ed or not and gender is not relevant as it does not require powerful body strength, and those interested can sign up as individuals, couples, or teams. Leagues have been forming in all communities, with the average age being 30 years, as well as legends leagues for over 35, making this great new pastime which can enjoyed as a lifetime sport by individuals or partners at what-ever pace and as casual and competitive as one may wish. Why not give pickle ball a try or find out what it’s all about? For those interested in and around the Town of Ponoka please get in touch with Wes Amendt, director of community services at 403-783-0134, Sandra Smith, communication manager at 403-783-0158, or the Ponoka Drop-In Centre at 403-783-5012. There are also some great paved tennis courts behind the aquaplex for those who love to play that great game at what-ever pace they wish.

How about a little humour

• Don’t wear headphones while you are vacuuming…I just finished the whole house before realizing that the darn thing wasn’t plugged in.

• Growing old is tough. Older gent to his wife, ‘My joints are stiff today.’ Her reply was, ‘It’s likely because you’re rolling them too tight.’

Hope that everyone is enjoying these warm sunny days with a few cool and refreshing sprinkles once in a while to make everything turn green and drown the mosquitoes. Please remember that one random act of kindness per day can change 365 lives, and then go ahead and feel good real good about yourself and have a great week, all of you.

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