WESTMONT – During the summer of 1965, three men created a game to entertain their families.
Played on a badminton court, it was comprised of paddles, a ball and a low net. It wasn’t long until the family dog, Pickle, began chasing after the stray balls and the game became known as Pickleball.
Pickleball, a combination of badminton and tennis, now is North America’s fastest growing sport, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). And with the help of a few local players, Pickleball now has made its debut at the Westmont Park District.
Having Pickleball in town will bring vitality to Westmont, said Maria Lahey, one of the players who helped bring the game to her community.
“We will be one of the few park districts to have it, especially in this area,” said Lahey, adding that the closest facility to play at is about 40 minutes away. “We’ll be a central location for it, which will be absolutely wonderful.”
The Westmont resident said she wanted to bring Pickleball to her community because it’s one of her passions.
“It’s just addictive,” said Lahey, who has played about three years. “It’s fun, I love the exercise, I love the people and it’s easy to learn.”
Pickleball is played with wooden or composite paddles, a ball styled like a whiffle ball and a net that’s 34 inches high. The sport is easy to pick up and a good release, said Joe Balagot, a Pickleball Ambassador from the USAPA.
“You don’t have to move too far, the court is small and the ball flies a lot slower than in tennis,” Balagot said. “With Pickleball, you get the workout, and that’s what I like.”
From Aug. 7 through 21, the park district hosted free Pickleball games every Wednesday at the Westmont Community Center, where residents could learn how to play and meet other experienced players.
Pia Sweeney, a Westmont resident, learned how to play at the classes and said it’s a lot of fun and an opportunity to meet other people.
“I’ve been wanting it to be here for a long time,” Sweeney said. “I heard about it 12 years ago, and it sounded like a lot of fun for the older seniors.”
Sweeney said the hardest aspect of the sport is learning how to keep score.
In Pickleball, points are scored by the serving side when the opponent fails to return the ball. The first side to score 11 points with a two-point lead wins.
Although the free sessions at the park district are over, Pickleball’s regular season will kick off Sept. 4. Now, Lahey said it’s just about getting the program to grow.
“I hope we can get it to grow to where we can have some tournaments and so that people can see how much fun it is,” Lahey said. “We could start to play outdoors, too. We have four courts on 59th Street we could tape off, and that’d be wonderful.”
Lahey said residents should come out and play, or watche.
“You meet wonderful people who are old and young at the same time,” Lahey said. “We’re getting older, but we don’t want to sit down and not do anything. We want to stay out there and stay active and this is a great sport to do that with.”
WHAT Westmont Park District's Pickleball league WHERE Westmont Community Center, 75 E. Richmond St. WHEN From 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday beginning Sept. 4 HOW Contact Alice Krampits at 630-963-5252 or visit: www.wpd4fun.org COST $2.50/day for residents FOR MORE Visit usapa.org