Pick up Pickleball Skills

Image of two pickleball paddles and a pickleball laying on pickleball court with net shadow

‘It’s kind of like playing ping pong while standing on a table.’

A free clinic on how to play pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports with one of the most unusual names, is set for Saturday, April 16, 3 to 5 p.m. at Willamalane Center.

Players from the Emerald Valley Pickleball Club will cover the rules and demonstrate basic strokes, ending the session with competitive games. The clinic is geared for ages 13 and up, with interested players invited to drop in.

Organizing the clinic is Roger Schaljo, who helped start the local pickleball club last year and has watched it steadily grow to its current membership of 80 players. Schaljo attributes the popularity of the sport to a number of factors.

“It’s a great social game, great for the reflexes, an easy game to learn and it gets the heart rate up while having fun,” he said.

Pickleball is a perfect fit for 60-year-old Monte Bousquet, who says it benefits him physically and mentally.

“I was a very active person all my life, and then all of a sudden I quit coaching, I quit refereeing, and I ran out of things to do. Jogging was not going to be the answer. Then I was introduced to pickleball, and it’s been a life-changer. I was able to be competitive again, get my heart rate better, and also work up a sweat,” he said.

Schaljo likens pickleball to a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong. “It’s kind of like playing ping pong while standing on the table.”

The game, based as much on strategy as well as stamina, is played on a badminton-sized court, with a net and rules similar to tennis. The equipment is simple, with players using a solid paddle to strike a plastic whiffle ball. Both singles and doubles can play.

While pickleball is best known for its popularity in retirement communities, Schaljo said that the sport is starting to attract all ages from all different sports and all levels of athletic abilities.

By providing a beginner’s clinic, Schaljo said he hopes to continue introducing the sport to a new group of people and keep the interest growing.

He is also encouraged that Willamalane Center has opened up more courts and expanded playing time for pickleball, making it the central place to play in Springfield and Eugene.

“We haven’t had the resources to reach out and teach new people. But being able to utilize Willamalane’s indoor space allows us for more teaching time,” he said.

Along with the pickleball courts that are available during daytime, Willamalane Center is now offering play on Thursday nights to accommodate workday schedules.

A real game changer, said Schaljo, is Willamalane’s intent to offer outdoor pickleball courts by relining an existing tennis court.

“And then you have all sorts of times that become available for the beginner to the advanced player,” he said.

According to Vinny Martorello, Willamalane planning and development manager, staff is currently reviewing a variety of options with the goal of making an outdoor pickleball court available to players by this summer.

Those interested in learning more about playing pickleball can contact Roger Schaljo.