SALISBURY — A recent pickleball clinic at the Hurley YMCA helped introduce the sport to another group of people.
The growing demand for the sport is leading to endless conversion of underutilized tennis courts and new construction to build more venues for people to play on. It has proven popular with many people young and old, and the sport also works well when adapted for people who use wheelchairs to get around.
The Friday clinic was aimed at local veterans who use wheelchairs, showing them the ropes and giving them the opportunity to play regardless of their experience level. The sport mixes elements of other sports. It uses smaller courts and slightly lower nets than tennis, paddles rather than racquets, and a different ball design.
Twila Adams served in the military. She helped organize the clinic for veterans traveling to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tempe, Arizona, at the request of her spine nurse.
Adams said she was first exposed to the sport through a Veterans Affairs Medical Center clinic in Georgia in 2019. When she returned home, she brought pickleball with her to Charlotte. She started looking for places to play and signed up for the Mecklenburg County Senior Games. She did well, signed up to compete, played at the state level, and signed up to play in the mid-Atlantic regions.
She demonstrated techniques throughout the clinic, such as underhand serve.
Adams competes in 10 different sports, including tennis, but what she loves most about pickleball is the social aspect. She said that when she showed up to play at recreation centers in Charlotte, people accepted her and played with her, no questions asked, and taught her the sport.
She said Salisbury is an ideal location for a veterans-friendly clinic because of the local VA facility and the number of veterans who come to the area because of it.
Alan Washington, a Navy veteran, attended a clinic a few weeks ago in his sports chair and was so fascinated by the sport that he got a good paddle and signed up to come to the clinic of Salisbury.
“One thing I love about pickleball is that it starts with able-bodied people and people in wheelchairs playing together so you can always find someone to play with,” Washington said.
He said the sport is easier to play than others and the indoor courts allow it to be played comfortably even in hot weather. The temperature peaked at around 90 degrees on Friday.
Wholesaler Galactic pickleball helped with the clinic. Galactic’s Bynum Tuttle said everyone has a sports-related story. He loved getting into sports and he said it helped him improve his health significantly for about 18 months.
“I was a gym rat, but after hip and knee replacements and everything else, it was too much work to lose weight,” Tuttle said. “Pickleball is healthy and you exercise without even thinking about it. Every time you bend over to pick up a ball, you exercise your core. You get cardiovascular exercise and a range of health benefits.
He also highlighted the friendly and social aspect of the game.
“People really like each other,” Bynum said. “You play tennis, you get off the court and don’t talk much unless you go with your buddies. In pickleball, you might go out to lunch with a band you played with.