By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
“Anyone who has spent a good amount of time in Arizona or Florida will be familiar with the game,” said Ken Van Den Boom, of the game he learned himself after spending five weeks in Arizona.
Called “Pickle Ball” Van Den Boom has spent the past several weeks and “many, many hours” restoring a 44’x20’ patch of the tennis courts in Caledonia, turning it into a pickle ball court.
The game, which is a combination of tennis and pingpong (rules wise), was originally thought up in the mid-1960s.
And it’s catching on.
About pickle ball
Pickle ball is easy to play. With elements of tennis, badminton, pingpong and volleyball, it can be played successfully by all ages, from young children to adults.
“If you can walk for five minutes and chase after a $100 bill if it blows by in the wind, you can play pickle ball,” Van Den Boom said.
Since the original game was thought up, an estimated 15,000 courts and 2.5 million players have taken to the game.
“I hope everyone will come out and enjoy it here in Caledonia,” Van Den Boom said.
Played on a court similar in size to a doubles badminton court, there is a non-volley zone or “kitchen” extending back seven feet from the net.
The rest of the court is divided into two service areas similar to a pingpong table or tennis court.
The play is similar to tennis, with forehands, volleys, lobs and backhands.
Hitting the ball is not allowed before it bounces. Volleying is not allowed if players are standing in the kitchen.
Players alternate with underhand serves to start a point and continue serving to alternate sides of the court until they lose a point.
Points, as in volleyball, can only be scored by the serving side.
The game is played until the winning team has 11 points.
“You should see some of the players in Arizona,” said Van Den Boom. “There are 80-year-old people who are very, very good at this game. They’ll whiz the ball right by you.”
A paddle, similar to a paddle ball paddle, a ball similar to a whiffle ball and a net similar to a tennis court net is all that is needed to play the game.
“I spent about $50 to $60 on all of the equipment total,” Van Den Boom said. “It’s cheap to play.”
And Van Den Boom, in an effort to help his community develop a love for the game he loves, said that he is willing to work with potential players to learn the game.
“I’ll be up here on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” he said.
That day, Van Den Boom would like to keep open for players 55 years and older.
On Sundays, he plans to help teach the game to players of all ages, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“Everything is free,” he said of the opportunity to learn the game. “All you need to bring are some tennis shoes and something to stay hydrated.”
The pickle ball court sits on a portion of the tennis courts that Van Den Boom has spent hours repairing.
“I’ve got to thank the city council,” Van Den Boom said.
The council gave Van Den Boom the O.K. to restore part of the tennis courts into a pickle ball court.
Van Den Boom used about 10 quarts of a filler filling crack after crack after crack on the tennis court.
He then painted the court green and painted the lines needed.
He invested in a net that he plans to take down, but if someone is interested in playing they can contact Van Den Boom and he’ll be happy to let them use the nets.
As Van Den Boom worked nights, and weekends to restore the court, his wife Lyn was also there.
“She helped clean things up and with every step she helped me,” Van Den Boom said. “I’ve got to thank her.”
Mayor Tank Schroeder said, “This is great, when someone wants to take something like this as a service project, we’re all for it. We’re restoring the basketball courts, the new pool turned out nice and now this. It’s really good.”
Other Minnesota towns
Several other Minnesota towns have taken to the sport. Near us, Harmony, Spring Valley and Chatfield all have pickle ball courts.
“I really hope people, especially the seniors, will come out and give it a try,” Van Den Boom said of the game. “I think people will find it’s easy to learn and really, really fun.”