Submitted by Bill Smyth
Pickleball, a wonderfully genteel name compared to other athletic endeavors, was allegedly named after a family dog, Pickles.
Pickleball, like its distant cousin skateboarding, was born and created as a result of boredom, ennui, and restlessness. Surfers took their skills on land in the 1950s – they wanted to expand – and their playground was the vast outdoor water conduits of southern California.
In the late 1960s, in a western suburb of Seattle, a restless family cobbled together various pieces of equipment to create a fun and casual form of afternoon entertainment, using ping pong paddles, a regular whiffle ball, and an existing badminton net. (Note: The dimensions of a pickleball court are almost the same as those of a badminton court.) Also, to keep the backyard game easygoing and enjoyable, a line was drawn to prevent slam shots from happening too close to the net.
During the turbulent 1970s and 1980s, the pickleball movement crept along unobtrusively, flourishing in the southern states, where warm weather prevailed year-round. Things picked up during the past decade, especially the past five or six years, as this form of recreation wound its way up into the northern states.
It came to Hull not by osmosis but through the foresight and diligence of four individuals. The details might be a smidge fuzzy, but this is what happened in broad strokes:
Having spent time in Florida during the winters and also belonging to the Braintree pickleball operation, which was easily 30 minutes away from Hull, Jeff Mann decided to take some action. He went to Town Hall, was directed to the Parks and Recreation Commission and asked them to consider painting pickleball lines inside of the existing tennis court lines at the L Street complex. The commission quickly approved the plan and painted one, and shortly thereafter a second set of pickleball lines appeared. Build it and they will come, and they did – in droves.
Melissa Robin, a Pickleball ambassador and conversant with the finer nuances of the game, began exploring beyond the obvious – dedicated courts. She explored several options. The Kenberma playground, with a decrepit tennis court, was the area of concentration. This necessitated immense funding, unlike the painting of lines, so an application was put in front of the Community Preservation Committee, in the category of recreation. Once again, Parks and Rec supported this step. After the requisite applications, hearings and town meeting approval, the project became a reality. The actual new courts then took an inordinately long time, testing the patience of many.
Athletic and entertainment venues need two elements: equipment and playing fields, or rinks, as well as participants, enthusiasts, and players. Jeff and Melissa spearheaded the former, but it was Kim O’Flaherty, who through email chains and later the app called Team Reach, rallied the players, expanded the group, and encouraged participation and communication. She shepherded the players, and that, combined with the facilities, has created a fantastic experience.
However, all of this could not have happened without the prescient and forward thinking of the chair of Parks and Rec, Greg Grey. Greg also is vice chair of the Select Board and an influential member of the CPC, which allowed the funding to happen. The L Street complex and the Kenberma playground are owned, operated, and maintained by the town, and Greg’s committee is the gateway for things to happen or not.
This Thursday night, Sept 30, at the Paragon Boardwalk, the pickleball group will hold a huge outing to commemorate the advances and milestones achieved to date.
With the advent of the new courts, instructional clinics and round-robin scrambles on several levels have happened, with more planned down the road.
If you are reading this and haven’t been down to the courts or want to, but have not yet played, I dare you to step forth and try something new and fun.
Submitted by Bill Smyth