Two months ago, Vee Plymell, Cassandra Erwin and Linda Lane were unknown among those using the indoor pickleball courts at the Tallahassee Senior Center. Today, sport has brought them together as friends, they say.
"Now we play together on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays," said Erwin, as the trio played on a recent Friday morning at the tennis courts at Winthrop Park, another favorite spot for friendly dates.
This sport conquered the whole country and Tallahassee.
A recent poll by World Sports Network, an online sports news outlet, shows Florida as the number one. #1 in the US for people searching the web for approximate locations.
A second study published by Offers.bet in March ranked the capital city as the 10th most popular at-bat this year among all US cities. The report analyzed hundreds of Google searches and asked more than 1,000 Americans to find out what causes their frustration, according to a press release.
About 1 in 6 Americans currently play pickleball (1 in 3 non-pickball players plan to try it by 2023).
83% of current acid players started playing in 2020 or later.
Most popular reasons to play: easy to learn (93%) and accessible (96%).
Each member of the Winthrop Park trio plays sports to stay engaged and physically active.
"It's nice to have something healthy to enjoy," Lan said after taking up the sport in January. "Once I started, it stuck."
The governments of Tallahassee and Leon counties are responding quickly to the increased demand.
In February, the city opened Four Oaks Park at Tram Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard, along with six new pickleball courts. There are only 35 fields in the city for the game.
"People tell you they're hooked for life," said Joanne Cox, president of the Tallahassee Pickleball Association. "It's a great sport and social activity."
Pickle Clubs in Tallahassee
Encouraged by the growth, President Fred Markham said in May 2021, the Tallahassee Pickleball Association started with 25 members and now has 284 members.
Thomas Saxton, the city's pickleball instructor, said the sport is popular with older people, but recently more college students are showing interest in the sport.
"We've seen an increase in students recently, especially in Tallahassee," Saxton said of the local movement.
Saxon said Florida State University's pickle ball club is a prime role model for young people interested in the sport.
Club president Jenna Kaplan said the club was founded in January and currently has 62 members. After falling in love with the sport in his first match, he played for eight months.
"I really liked it, so I told my girlfriend about it," Kaplan said. "We fell in love with the sport and it became our hobby."
Kaplan said members of the group frequent Tom Brown Park, Winthrop Park and Four Oaks Park.
Pickleball in high school? Yes
Not only the elderly and university students are interested in this sport, children have also started taking up oars to play.
Derlake High School Principal Steve Mills said pickleball is so popular with students that the school now offers four courts on campus. Students can play during physical education and there is a separate pickleball club for students and teachers.
"We think it's great that our students are interested in being a part of one of the fastest growing sports in the country," said Jennifer Schwartz, Derlak's math teacher and pickle ball club leader. We are currently the only high school with pickleball courts on campus.
The Pickle Club opened in the fall semester of 2021 after the cucumber fields were installed. The teachers of the school decided to teach this type of sport, seeing it as a fun and therapeutic effect, and wanted to present this opportunity to the students.
"We did a survey to see how interested students were, and based on the overwhelming feedback we got, we decided to start a club," Schwartz said.
Where to Play Pickleball in Tallahassee
The city has community centers with 29 outdoor courts and six indoor courts, while Leon County offers four courts at Daniel B. Cheers Park, 4768 Seats Crossing Road.
For a complete schedule of pickleball in Tallahassee, visit https://www.talgov.com/parks/sports-pickleball.
For those interested in learning pickleball, the city of Tallahassee offers private lessons for $15-$60, or a clinic or group lesson with certified instructors for $40. For more information, visit https://www.talgov.com/parks/sports-pickleball.
Tom Brown Park, 501 Easterwood Drive, is open for outdoor play on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, players can book the course from 5:30pm to 8:00pm.
The Sue Herndon McCollum Community Center, 501 Ingleside Ave., is open Monday and Friday 9 a.m. to noon and Wednesday by appointment for outdoor play.
Four Oaks Park, Tramway and Four Oaks Boulevard have spaces open for outdoor play on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and spaces open by reservation on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.
Winthrop Park, 1601 Mitchell Ave., has six outdoor acid (tennis) courts available by reservation only.**
The Jack L. McLean Community Center, 700 Paul Russell Road, has three indoor courts open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Lawrence-Gregory Community Center, 1115 Dade St., has three courts in the sports complex available for outdoor play on Mondays, Wednesdays and weekends.
**To reserve a pickleball pitch at Tom Brown Park or Winthrop Park, call (850) 891-4940.
Contact Democratic Secretary Alia Brown at ABrown1@gannett.com and @BrownAlaijah on Twitter .
This article was originally published in the Tallahassee Democrat: Pickleball gains popularity Nationally and in Tallahassee.