Pickleball craze nationwide has hit Murfreesboro

Lee Midgett returns a shot during a Pickleball game at Patterson Park Community Center. Jim Davis/Murfreesboro Parks & Rec.

It's a sports craze like no other spreading across the United States.

Invented in 1965, pickleball now has more than 100,000 competitors nationwide and has certainly become a big hit in Murfreesboro.

"I quit tennis cold turkey," Murfreesboro resident and pickleball player Lee Midgett said. "It's really an addictive sport."

So what is pickleball?

Pickleball is essentially a hybrid sport that is a cross between tennis, table tennis and badminton. It is played indoors and outdoors on a court that is much smaller than a tennis court (20 x 44 feet) although featuring many tangibles of the sport.

Pickleball is played with a paddle and a ball that resembles at whiffle ball. Players can only accumulate a point on their own serve, and the first player to 11 wins.

"I actually walked into SportsCom one day and heard people hitting this whiffle ball and I got to looking at it," said Midgett, a lifetime tennis player. "I borrowed one of SportsCom’s paddles and played about 30 minutes and I was hooked. I've played it for the last year and a half."

Murfreesboro resident Melissa Powell is a certified teaching professional. She, too, became addicted to the sport after playing tennis for many years.

"The first thing I tell people is it's the faster growing sports right now," Powell said. "A friend of mine and I used to play tennis all the time. I told my husband I would try it out but I wasn't going to give up tennis. I got addicted to it and haven't played tennis in a couple of years."

Added Midgett: "She's better than any of the guys around here. But that's the great thing. Men and women can play together and against each other. It's a sports for all levels."

A game of pickleball begins with an underserved that must bounce once and a return that must bounce once.

"After that, it's on," Powell said. "Anybody can start out playing. A lot of the shots are underhanded. You have to have a touch on the ball, but it can be learned easily. I played volleyball (at MTSU in college) and I even use a lot of those skills. Anybody can play this game, and most people who start stay with it."'

Midgett considers himself an ambassador for the sport and tries to promote is at much as possible.

"We play at SportsCom, McFadden and Patterson Park," Midgett said. "We're so excited about Patterson. They've built six fully dedicated courts that are open. You can play on your own or we have organized play dates.

"We're indoors at McFadden from 8-11 a.m. on Monday and Friday, Patterson indoors from noon to 3 on Wednesday and we're out under the lights at Patterson on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5:30-9 p.m. Anyone is welcomed to come and play. If you're a beginner, you'll play with beginners. If you're an advanced player, you'll play with an advanced player."

Back in 1965, two couples on vacation we're trying to come up with an activity that both families could enjoy. They began playing a form of pickleball. When they would knock the ball off the court, one of the family's pet dog, named Pickles, would chase it and bring it back.

Thus, pickleball officially became a sport, and today more than 100,000 people are enjoying it daily.

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