The future of pickleball may be coming from Pecos Community Center’s summer camp.
Kids as young as 6 have been learning the sport all week from local pickleball ambassadors.
“This is where we as adults play, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” said Dutch Vander Laan, a member of the Tempe Pickleball club. “In order to pay our rent, we agreed we would entertain the summer camp kids with a clinic.”
All 200 kids attending summer camp at Pecos Community Center participated in the clinic. They learned the basic rules of the game, positions to hold their paddles and how to hit the ball over the net. Each day, the kids were broken into groups and transitioned through six stations that focused on a different skill for the game. By the end of the week, the kids were playing actual games against each other.
“I liked that I was being active and not just sitting around doing other things,” said Kolten Morris, who was participating in the 7- to 8-year-old group. “It’s a fun thing to play. … My brother comes here, so he knows how to play now so we can teach our younger brother.”
While the kids may not have left the clinic as experts on pickleball — a paddle sport with a plastic ball played on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net — the instructors hope the experience will inspire at a few to continue playing.
“We have 200 kids,” Vander Laan said. “Maybe I turn 20 of them on [to the sport] and they want to continue to play the game. Pecos is considering a class after school for those kids. We would continue to develop them. The national tournament is in Buckeye. I would love to see six or eight of them go to nationals just to play. They don’t have to win, but just play. That’s a couple years away.”
Joan Gillespie, who is a member of the Pickleball Club Board at the Ahwatukee Rec Center, said the game is expanding quickly in Ahwatukee. Many local community centers have recently built new courts for members. While the game is growing consistently in Ahwatukee, there aren’t many other areas in Phoenix where it’s widely available. She’s hoping the city will consider offering pickleball at all Phoenix community centers.
“I think everybody’s mission right now with pickleball is to get more people involved because we enjoy it so much,” she said. “It’s easier to play than tennis. Not only is the court half the size, but it’s more social. It’s loose and friendly and people are willing to teach. It’s an exciting time to be involved because it’s mushrooming like crazy. It’s a great family game. We want to try to involve youngsters to have people coming into the sport.”
There are several places to play pickleball in Ahwatukee. For more information on the sport and where to play, visit www.usapa.org.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Places to play pickleball in Ahwatukee Foothills
Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center • 4700 E. Warner Road
Two courts are available during regular business hours: 7:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m Saturday. You can reserve one hour of play on one or two courts by calling (480) 893-3431.
The fee for these pickleball courts are by usage of a player punch card. You may purchase five plays for $16, 10 plays for $26, 20 plays for $47, or 30 plays for $63. You may also pay a one-time guest fee of $3.50 per play.
Ahwatukee Recreation Center • 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive
Ahwatukee Recreation Center is a private 55-plus community center for those residing within the retirement area. Social memberships are available for those outside the retirement area. Courts are open to members 6:30 a.m. to dusk Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to dusk. Sunday.
Pecos Community Center • 17010 S. 48th St.
Courts are available for pickleball 10 a.m. to noon Monday and Wednesday, 1-3 p.m. Thursday and 8–10 a.m. Friday. There are courts indoors and outdoor tennis courts can also be marked with chalk for pickleball play. Usage is $10 per year for Phoenix residents, $20 a year for nonresidents or a one-time fee of $2 per visit. Open play, rotate in. All ages and levels are welcome. For more information, call (602) 534-5252
Western Star Park • 100047 S. 44th St.
The public park has two tennis courts that can be used for pickleball. A pickleball group plays on the courts 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is no fee to play. All ages and levels are welcome. For more information, call Joan Gillespie at (602) 418-1390.
Information from USA Pickleball Association website, www.usapa.org.