August 2, 2010

Pickleball is Alive and Well in Minnesota by Tom & Jeanne Gearhart

Reprinted from the August 2010 edition of
USAPA e-pickleball news -
a monthly publication for USAPA members

"Pickleball is Alive and Well in Minnesota"
by Tom and Jeanne Gearhart
USAPA Roving Ambassadors

So you want to play pickleball? Then you'd suppose you have to go to Florida, or Arizona or maybe Washington where this whole cult thing started. Not so!!! Minnesota is filled with "Snow Birds": people who go to Florida and Arizona in the winter, play pickleball there and then come home to Minnesota.

Jim Klaseus from Bloomington spends a couple of months a year at Road Haven RV Resort in Mesa, AZ. He plays pickleball. He comes home and misses it. He contacts the city and asks, very respectfully, if some lines can be painted on old tennis courts so he and a few others can play this silly pickleball game in the summer. They look at him like he might be some kind of deranged Norwegian. Jim persists, and they finally give him 2 old beater tennis courts. Today they have more people than they can handle on 2 courts and the city has agreed to build 4 new ones.

Jerry Maas from Eden Prairie spends his winters in Florida. Two years ago he thought it would be nice to play pickleball in the summer, so he went to his city. A bunch of them now play 3 times a week both on indoor and outdoor courts.

Mike Jennings got it going in Lakeville through the Senior Center and the folks love it.

Dave Leach is an avid pickleballer who winters at Venture Out in Mesa, AZ. He heads up an all-city tournament there every year and still does not get enough of it. He lives in a small town in northern Minnesota called Onamia. He started it there a couple of years ago in a small recreation center and this year held his first "Onamia Days Tournament", which Jeanne and I played in, and it was a smashing (no pun intended) success.

Jeanne and I used to live in the small town of Northfield, MN and became USAPA pickleball ambassadors for that community. We tried to get it going through the Northfield Senior Center and we were mildly successful to begin with by taping lines on the school tennis courts (the only courts in town). We approached the school district with the idea of painting lines on a couple of them and got a swift and speedy 'no', because the tennis coaches would not allow it. We have since sold our home there and are now full time RV people, so we have become roving ambassadors. This has allowed us to play all over the state for the past couple of years and we love it. We spent last summer in the St. Cloud area and found out that some folks were playing at the Whitney Senior Center. What a group. Tracey Thompson and Kim Kuester head up the program and they now have 5 indoor courts and 2 outdoor courts. They play 3 times a week and on any given evening have 12 to 20 people show up. Tracey started the St. Cloud Pickleball web site  and the club is really taking off.

Randy Hall has a very active group in Willmar, MN. Last year he introduced it to the Minnesota Senior Games for the first time and it was a winner. They had 35 people sign up. This year they expect to double that number. The games are played in Alexandria in July.

We have heard that pickleball is alive and well in Virginia (iron range country to the north), in Rochester, in Ramsey and yes even the little town of Avon where a fellow by the name of Mike Collins is building a club of avid pickleballers with 3 indoor courts and he's now in the process of building 3 outdoor courts.

I' m sure there are more that Jeanne and I don't know about yet, but we will. People in other parts of the state that play pickleball will read this article and we will hear about it. That's great. It's a fun sport. People of all ages love it and Minnesota loves it.

Tom and Jeanne are fulltime RVers who winter at Palm Creek RV Resort in Casa Grande, AZ and spend their summers in Minnesota where their family is.