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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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December 2018

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Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
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Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
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Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
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View map »


Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
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Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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More information

Show More...
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Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

December 1 – December 31, 2018 Monday – Thursday, 10am – 1pm Fridays (December 7, 14, 21, 28), 10am – 7pm Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 4pm Vacation Week, December 24, 26, 27 & 31, 10am...

Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

December 1 – December 31, 2018 Monday – Thursday, 10am – 1pm Fridays (December 7, 14, 21, 28), 10am – 7pm Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 4pm Vacation Week, December 24, 26, 27 & 31, 10am...

Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

December 1 – December 31, 2018 Monday – Thursday, 10am – 1pm Fridays (December 7, 14, 21, 28), 10am – 7pm Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 4pm Vacation Week, December 24, 26, 27 & 31, 10am...

Cost: Members: Free; Adult: $5; Seniors & Student: $3; Children under 5: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Each night from November 20th through December 31st the museum is transformed into a dazzling holiday light extravaganza! Every surface of the museum’s exterior becomes a canvas...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Telephone: 203-899-0606
Contact Name: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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