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PARKS AND REC: New courts have people in a pickle

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

For those who find tennis too intense, badminton too slow and ping–pong too small, Kenmore Park now offers a combination of all three: pickleball.

Athletes of any age and skill level interested in the unique game can now play on newly installed courts at the park, thanks to the Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Department.

Pickleball, played with two square paddles and an oversized Wiffle ball, has grown in popularity because of its versatility.

“It appeals to not only [young] adults, but also older adults,” said Justin Bullock, sport and fitness supervisor at Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation.

Pickleball is a great way to exercise, he said, and players can have fun and socialize while getting in their workout.

Bullock’s interest in the sport started after he volunteered for a pickleball tournament at a fundraiser through Virginia Recreation and Park Society. After that, he was “bit with the bug.”

“We all thought it would be a great addition to our services that we offer to our community,” he said of the parks and recreation staff.

There is one new court available at Kenmore Park exclusively for pickleball, and two existing tennis courts where lines for pickleball were added.

Pickleball courts are smaller than tennis, Bullock said, which makes the sport even more appealing.

Players at the park should bring their own paddles and ball to play, and the courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Linda Harris is one of many in the city who has joined the pickleball craze.

Harris, who started playing in the fall, noticed city crews pouring cement for the courts last week and was ecstatic.

While she used to play indoors at the Rappahannock YMCA’s Massad facility and the Courthouse Community Center in Stafford County, she can now conveniently walk to the new courts.

The shade trees of Kenmore Park make the game even more enjoyable for her and her group of pickleball fanatics.

“It’s much easier on the knees, ankles and hips. We just have a lot of fun playing,” she said.

Unlike golf, where players have to commit to 18 holes, Harris said, pickleball is a shorter game where players can rotate in and out through 11-point matches.

Harris, who has exercised all her life, usually plays three times a week with women of all ages.

“I play with people well into their 80s,” she said, “and they are good.”

Bullock isn’t wasting any time hyping the new courts.

There will be two pickleball clinics at the new courts on Sept. 13 and Oct. 4 taught by Mike Roberts, USA Pickleball Ambassador for Henrico and Gloucester counties. The clinics are open to anyone regardless of skill level.

Regina Weiss 540/374-5444