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Silly Name, Great Game

Pickleball Fun in Fairfield



Betsy Hulme, coordinator of pickleball for Fairfield at the Bigelow Center, starts off the game with partner Gerry Callahan.

Photos by Stan Godlewski

Did you ever, as a kid, make up a game? You’re standing on a field with some neighborhood friends, kicking the dirt on a summer afternoon and wondering what could possibly make the day less boring. And then you see a piece of wood. Someone says: “Hey, that piece of wood looks cool. Let’s make up a game. Here are the rules. Here are how many pieces of wood are needed for the game.” And as the minutes go by and the ideas start to fly, your new, pickup game is born and you play all summer, enjoying hours upon hours of fun.

You could say that pickleball started that way, only the kids were adults: three dads in 1965 (Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum), hanging out on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle. They were looking for an activity that families and friends could participate in, so they found a whiffle ball and some paddles and started making up rules for a game, deciding on “pickleball” for a name. Common belief is that the name was in honor of Pritchard’s family cocker spaniel, “Pickles” who loved to chase stray balls. However, Pritchard’s daughter stated in an interview that they were really “just looking for a nutty name.” But by the time some journalists tried to debunk the myth, the Official Pickleball Handbook had already been printed, so they just left the original story alone.

Now, 53 years later, pickleball is not just a game, it’s a sport that has spread quickly in the U.S. from west to east, arriving in Fairfield in 2012. At that time, Margaret Andrews, program coordinator at the Bigelow Senior Center, was talking to her friend and retired tennis pro, Diane Sullivan, who suggested that the center might be a perfect place for active seniors to play pickleball. Andrews said ‘pickle what?” But after seeing a video of the game, she was inspired to host viewings at the center to gauge interest. “It just caught on from there,” says Andrews. So, with funds secured for whiffle balls and nets, pickleball was launched, and volunteers happily got to work taping the gym floor to create two badminton-sized courts. Now, say “pickleball” to someone in Fairfield and they either know of someone who has played or they have played themselves.

I had to see this game for myself, so I went over to the Bigelow Center. What I imagined was this: senior citizens shuffling about a small court and using a ball that made a hollow “chink” sound when it was lopped over the net and hit the floor. What I found was anything but that: instead, I witnessed a fast-paced, competitive sport with participants ranging anywhere from 50 to 93-year-old Connie, who has been playing at the center since the beginning.

Betsy Hulme, coordinator of pickleball at Bigelow and USAPA ambassador for Fairfield confirmed what I experienced. “It’s a game of patience and unforced errors, all wrapped up in problem solving,” she explains. According to this former PE teacher, now certified pickleball instructor, this is just another way to stay active. It doesn’t take the place of other activities. In fact, she says, “we still play tennis; it has helped our tennis games.” Right now the center has 125 players, organized by skill level, and about 50 of them travel from nearby towns to play year-round.

Clubs in the area are also getting in on pickleball. Fairfield resident Karen Paloian, who got hooked on it while playing in California, is now an avid player at Brooklawn Country Club. “It’s like playing ping pong on the ground,” she says, explaining the challenge of net play, “dinking” and the underhand serve. In addition, the town, with the help of Parks and Rec head Gerry Lombardo (now retired), worked with Hulme and Fairfielder Maryann Charmov to convert one tennis court on Tunxis Hill into four dedicated courts.  

Bigelow Center members Bill Cox, Maryann Charmov, Barb Markelz, Mary Martinik, Alan Schur, Jerry Whitlock, Betsy Hulme, John Hursh, Gayle Murphy, and Gayle Sullivan were winners at the May CT Masters games. 

 

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Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
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Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
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The Bruce Museum spotlights the creative energy and vitality of fine art created by regional high school students in the 8th annual iCreate exhibition. Opening on June 9 and continuing...

Cost: Adults $10; Students and Seniors $8; Members and Children Under 5 Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203.413.6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Fairfield Sidewalk Sale & Street Fair Saturday, July 21, 2018 10:00am-4:00pm, Rain or Shine First Selectman Mike Tetreau announced today that the Town of Fairfield and Fairfield...

Cost: free

Where:
Downtown Fairfield
Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Town of Fairfield & Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-256-3120
Contact Name: Mark Barnhart
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A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
Fairfield Museum
370 Beach Rd
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Mock Stock is going Metal in a nod to AC/DC, Guns N Roses, and Metallica.  Halfway to HELL (Tribute to AC/DC)- Halfway to HELL- AC/DC Tribute features a High energy stage show with two...

Cost: Tickets $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

Where:
Ives Concert Park
43 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT  06811
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Sponsor: Ives Concert Park and Promotions in Motion
Telephone: 203-837-9227
Contact Name: Phyllis Cortese
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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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The Magpie Salute brings together the reunited guitar team of Rich Robinson and Marc Ford from the Black Crowes, bassist Sven Pipien (also from the Crowes) along with lead...

Cost: $48

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company in The Warehouse
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Egotistical leading man, director, and producer Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of...

Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
70 Pine St.
New Canaan, CT  06840
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An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Christine's Garden
151 Main Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Corteo, one of Cirque du Soleil’s most successful shows on record, comes to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for seven shows from July 18-22, 2018. Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is...

Cost: Starting at $52

Where:
Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport)
, CT


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Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
Website »

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Hiking and practicing yoga outside in the fresh air leaves you feeling uplifted, centered, and peaceful! In warm weather months, we meet regularly in various parks and trails. Each event starts...

Cost: Three and Five Class Packages (3 times for $33, 5 times for $42)

Where:
Vary with each class
, CT


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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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