Friday, July 19, 2024

Slice, Smash, Score! – Pickleball is a Major Hit

HomeFitnessSlice, Smash, Score! - Pickleball is a Major Hit

In recent years, pickleball has taken northeast Florida and other areas by storm, and it’s not just because of its quirky name. This sport, which combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, has become particularly popular for good reason.

Invented in 1965 by three men who were looking for a way to entertain their bored children during summer vacation, fathers Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, started what has now become the fastest growing sport in decades. Little did they know that their creation would become a global phenomenon, attracting players of all ages and skill levels.

Andy Zarka is the owner of Jax Pickleball Store. He opened the store four years ago when he noticed the building next door to another business he owns, European Street Café, in San Marco available for lease.

Zarka was a runner back then and while talking with a good friend from college and complaining about knee pain one day, his friend suggested he begin playing the game. “My knees couldn’t take it anymore and I decided running was no longer for me,” Zarka said.

“Unlike tennis, which can be physically demanding, pickleball is much easier on the joints. The court is smaller, the ball is lighter, and the paddle is easier to handle, making it the perfect sport for adults looking to stay active without risking injury,” Zarka said.

Another reason for pickleball’s popularity is its social aspect. It offers an opportunity to get out of the house, meet new people, and stay connected with the community.

Zarka mentioned that the City of Jacksonville has made renovations to many of their tennis courts to accommodate the sport and others are following suit. “You won’t find many church gyms that aren’t being used for pickleball these days. Most YMCAs in town transform their gyms and basketball courts into pickleball courts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 a.m. tonoon every week,” says Zarka.

Left to right: Andy Zarka, Maria Zachmann Nili,
Marithza Ross, OJ Bryan participate in a local
celebrity Pickleball tournament.
Left to right: Andy Zarka, Maria Zachmann Nili, Marithza Ross, OJ Bryan participate in a local celebrity Pickleball tournament.

Toon Town is the newest one. It’s located on Talleyrand near the stadium with six courts. They are membership based but you can drop in as a non-member, but it will cost a little more.

If you’re playing doubles or just chatting on the sidelines, pickleball offers players a chance to socialize and have fun with likeminded individuals.

“It is a good cardiovascular workout, and helps improve hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility. I teach people every Tuesday morning and after just one lesson they start playing against each other and he joy of competition comes out and it’s so much fun to watch,” said Zarka.

There is something incredibly satisfying about whacking a plastic ball back and forth across a net, and the fast pace of the game keeps players on their toes. Plus, because pickleball is easy to learn but difficult to master, players can continue to improve their skills over time, keeping the game challenging and exciting.

If you’re looking for a new way to stay fit and have fun, you might want to give it a try.

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