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Pickleball offers players a mix of ping pong, tennis with chess

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KENT – Kent residents appear ready to jump into the pickleball phenomenon based on the turnout Saturday for an introduction by the Kent Memorial Library.

A group of 37 people showed up Feb. 24 to learn the game. The library partnered with Kent School and several volunteers served as coaches/instructors to guide the novice players through the basics.

Coaches Jen Hornecker and Janette Ireland play a demonstration game for the 37 attendees at the Feb. 24 pickleball workshop offered by Kent Memorial Library, hosted at Kent School. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

“It is so much fun,” said Janette Ireland, who helped arrange the event. “I started one and a half years ago. It is extremely addicting, but it is so therapeutic.”

Along with her wife, Denise Howard, Jen Hornecker, Carol DeFranza and Darin Hudson, Ireland worked her way around the courts at Kent School’s Bourke Racquet Center giving tips and guidance about holding the racquets and scoring. At the midpoint of the two-hour program, the coaches played a quick but intense demonstration game to show how more experienced players operate.

“We laugh a lot,” Ireland said, adding they also can get competitive.

Starting on the school’s outside courts, Howard explained that there was a group of Kent School employees including herself that wanted to play. They are now practicing twice a week and even played in a tournament last year. The independent school students started a pickleball club and the school purchased the smaller portable nets to accommodate the interest.

“It is a lot of fun. I just love this,” Howard said as she watched people play. “The key is to be safe and not hurt yourself.”

Hornecker described the game as a mixture of more familiar games.

Kent residents Dan Greenbaum and Gary Davis practice their techniques as Jen Hornecker looks on Feb. 24 on the Kent School indoor courts. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

“It is a mix of ping pong and tennis with a little chess thrown in,” Hornecker said. “The more you play the more you get it.”

Many of the participants expressed pleasure at how quickly they picked up hitting the hard plastic ball with the paddle-like racquet and getting it over the shorter nets. Smaller courts on half of the tennis courts were set up. Pickleball courts are 44 feet long by 20 feet wide and blue tape marked the dimensions.

Elizabeth Aviles of Kent was having a great time.

“I’ve never played before,” she said. “It is a lot of fun.”

Kent residents Gary and Bobbie Davis were enjoying a series of games with Dan Greenbaum and Bill Slepoy of Cornwall. Slepoy had not played before but said, “I plan to do it again.”

Several people said they wanted to approach Kent Park and Recreation about setting up the ability to play pickleball in the upcoming months. The commission agreed Monday to spend up to $600 on pickleball equipment and take steps to offer opportunities to play indoor games, and eventually games outdoors.

Lynn Worthington
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