Pickleball – the Region’s Fastest Growing Sport

I was introduced to pickleball early last year by a friend of mine.

When they first talked to me about it, my mind went to senior citizens batting whiffle balls with tennis rackets. But I met my friend a few times on a pickle ball court in Holmen, and volleyed the ball around.   I didn’t see any other players and wasn’t really interested in attending any games.

Recently, another friend introduced me to the La Crosse Area Pickleball Facebook Page, and invited me to attend a beginner’s clinic held at Parkridge Park in Onalaska; an event held through the Onalaska Parks and Rec Department in partnership with the La Crosse Area Pickleball Club.  Though the registration was full, they were kind enough to allow me to cover this event and learn the sport of pickle ball with them.

At this particular class, I noticed a variety of ages interested in pickle ball from 9 through retirement age.

There, I met Jaxson who started playing pickle ball at the YMCA  at around 8 just for fun but developed a competitive streak for the game.  Along with Jaxson, was his mother Allison who is trying to collaborate with the YMCA to develop a pickleball league for youth.


Pickleball was first invented by two businessmen in 1965 from the Seattle, Washington area; who wanted  to play badminton but couldn’t find the proper equipment.  They utilized table tennis paddles and a plastic ball; in 1967, the first Pickleball court was built; and in 1972, Pickleball became an official sport.

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the county today” I heard multiple times during my conversations with the various instructors of the clinic.

I asked Gary Ecker, member of the La Crosse Area Pickle Ball Club leadership group, which consists of  15 members:  “what do you think is contributing to the growth of this sport (pickleball).” “It’s easier than tennis” Ecker said “the paddles are bigger, it applies to people of all ages, the court is smaller so one doesn’t have to move around as much, and it’s a social sport. The first team that reaches 11 points sits out,  then another team comes in; so that leaves time for people to sit around and chat.”

How  do you start playing pickleball

Pickleball is a universal sport. All one has to do is go to any pickleball court, place your paddle in a designated area and when your paddle is selected you’re in the next round ( the paddle version of waiting in line).

With the rapid growth and demand for pickle ball, most community parks and recreation departments are aware of pickle ball and have courts set up.  There are also multiple mobile phone  aps that are dedicated to pickleball – where players can find courts, games, and tournaments.

Really, all one needs for equipment is a paddle and pickleballs – small whiffle type balls (big holes for inside, smaller for outside to handle wind control).

Equipment is  easy to come by, and is very affordable; most box retailers have pickleball equipment, as well as online (amazon, pickleball central). 

For a fee, some online stores will allow one to order multiple paddles to try out; then send the unwanted one back.

All the volunteers at the clinic had one more common thing to add to the story:

To learn more about the La Crosse Area Pickleball Club go to their website  www.lacrossepickleball.com  or their facebook page: La Crosse Pickleball Club

By Anthony Larson