Grab your paddles and tennis shoes. Pickle ball has made its way to Homer. People have been gathering for game nights at the Homer Educational and Recreational Complex – or HERC – to play.
So you’ve never heard of pickle ball before? You’re not alone. It’s been around since the 1960s, but not many people play the sport. I first heard about it when I was in middle school back in Illinois. It was a unit of P.E. in Mr. Maxeiner’s class.
The sport is like the Frankenstein’s monster of racquet games. It takes a little from badminton, a little from tennis and just a touch from table tennis. In fact, the paddle you use in pickle ball is a slightly larger version of the one you would use in ping pong.
The ball also is similar to those used in table tennis, only it’s basically a wiffle ball and you play on a badminton court. And the net is slightly lower than a regulation tennis net.
Now what about the name? Pickle ball? Mike Flora said that according to lore, the inventor was apparently a congressman from Washington State who named it after his dog.
“It’s cute. I wish the dog had a more impactful name. Growler ball or something,” he said.
Flora is one of the sponsors for the game nights. He said they started out with about 10 people, but now there are 22 people signed up. And word is spreading.
“I had a call from Oregon. Somebody called and said ‘hey, I heard you have a game up here. When I come up, how do I get in?’ So I called him back and said ‘show up’,” he said.
Flora says the group is serious about the game, but not too serious. He says they accept any skill level, any age and even those with mile-long competitive streaks.
“…The game’s super playable. If you have a little tennis elbow or some kind of minor knee thing that keeps you away from tennis twice a week, you can play here,” he said.
Flora said the idea came from Bill Bloom who mentioned to the Homer Community Recreation Coordinator Mike Illg that the game would likely be popular in Homer. Illg then found a home for the sport and put Flora and a few others in charge. Bloom declined an interview because he was too busy actually playing.
Flora said he hopes they can continue to call the HERC gym home for a while.
“I’d love to keep going in the summer, here inside. I played some tennis and that sort of can be iffy some summers. It’s nice to know it’s here,” he said.
People have been meeting up Wednesday and Friday nights at 6:30 to play in doubles. They currently have two nets up, but Flora said a third one may be on the way. Paddles are available for rent and are $2 for each night you play.