Santa Clarita joins in national pickleball craze

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By Caleb Lunetta

Signal Staff Writer

It’s one of the fastest growing sporting trends in America and it comes with a paddle, a wiffle ball and a funny name: pickleball.

Widely regarded by both the larger and local members of the sporting community, pickleball and its players have become ever increasing sites at private and public courts.

And those who have already hopped in on the smaller version of tennis that is played with a paddle instead of a racket and wiffle ball instead of a tennis ball, say their community is accepting and interested in gaining as many players as they can.

Players compete in a Paseo Club Pickleball tournament. July 20, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

What is pickleball?

“Tennis now has just become pretty much how hard can you hit the ball past someone else,” said Frank Nadasdy, a pickleball coach at The Paseo Club. “But in pickleball, actually, as you get better and more experienced, you actually hit the ball softer.”

According to Nadasdy and fellow pickleball enthusiast and The Paseo Club General Manager, Jen Azevedo, the game is one of the fastest growing because it allows for people of all ages to join in on the play.

Considered almost like a smaller version of tennis, with the court divided into two “service areas, with the non-volley zone running lengthwise along the net. Played with a paddle and wiffleball, the server must serve the ball in an upward arc that when the ball is struck, the paddle contact must not be made above the waist level.

Bounces and volleys — where there is no bounce — are both permitted depending on the moment of the game and placement of the players.

“In order for you to get better, you have to hit the ball softly and strategically as opposed to just hitting it hard,” said Nadadsy. It’s almost like you’re playing chess.” 

“Pickleball is a little tennis, a lot of badminton, ping pong and volleyball,” said Azevedo. “It’s definitely a blended game — but it’s a blast.”

Who plays pickleball? 

“My 4-year-old can play, and my parents, who are in their 70s, both play,” said Azevedo. “It’s all ages, and I can play with my parents and have a great time.”

The local community of pickle players is small and growing, according to the Paseo Club’s experts. At their club, there’s approximately 240 people playing; and at Bouquet Canyon Park, there are many more players looking for a doubles partner on the weekends.

“Pickleball is much more open than tennis, because in tennis you’re always looking at, you know, these guys aren’t good enough to play or they’re too good to play against us,” said Nadadsy. “One of the beauties of Pickleball is you can have a good time even if the people are kind of not evenly matched.”

“The game is very inclusive, it’s very friendly,” Azevedo added. “Even if you do find yourself in a ‘drop-in’ situation, and you’re not really comfortable with the level, the other three players on court, most of the time, will extend some courtesy to you such that they’re going to play gently, they’re going to help you feel comfortable.”

Azevedo said that since pickleball is such a relatively new sport, the usual social hierarchy and trappings that come with a sport like tennis are nearly non-existent.

“It’s such a new sport and everybody has been that person and everybody remembers it most recently enough that they can still be helpful to those people,” said Azevedo, who conceded that after a lifetime of playing tennis, she understands how that environment come sometimes be elitist to newcomers. “The bad stereotypes of tennis, those don’t exist as much in the pickleball realm.”

Those wishing to play are encouraged to visit Bouquet Canyon Park in the evening hours or on the weekends.

What do you need?

Members of the team at First Serve Tennis Shop said being an active member in the pickleball community comes down to not having the most expensive gear, but the gear that will keep you playing the longest.

Starting first with shoes, getting a good pair on your feet can not only ensure you do not get hurt while playing, but can also improve your game.

“They have to be quite specific for pickleball because if you play with a $200 Nike or Asics running shoe, and that will not have the support of a court shoe,” said Francis Dimaya, owner of First Serve Tennis Shop. “That’s kind of the biggest thing for people, whether it’s tennis or pickleball, is they don’t have the right equipment and they’re starting off on the wrong foot.”

Dimaya said having the wrong shoe can cause you to slip around on the court or even roll your ankle. And while you don’t want to go for the most expensive equipment, he advised that you do not start off with the cheapest equipment either.

But one of the most important things, Dimaya said, is to get out there and enjoy yourself.

“I think my pitch is that it’s a small tennis court, and you don’t have to cover as much ground and it’s fast paced,” said Dimaya. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s great exercise, and it’s less taxing on your body than tennis.”

The Paseo Club, located at 27650 Dickason Drive, Valencia, has a number of pickleball courts and upcoming events. More information can be found by calling (661) 257-0044.

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