Everyone’s talking about pickleball

fiala blog
Commissioner Donna Fiala cuts the cake during the Pickleball Picklenic at East Naples Community Park.

Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala wrote about pickleball in a recent column in the Collier Citizen

It seems that everyone is talking about pickleball. What is this popular sport, I kept asking myself, so I decided to go over to see what was so fascinating.

I was wondering, what does a pickle ball even look like? Is it green? Does it have warts? What would they use to hit it around?

What I found was fun, fun and more fun. And while I’m at it, it’s great exercise and great fellowship.

First of all, the ball is something like a whiffle ball with either little holes for indoors or larger holes for outdoors, or what they use at East Naples Community Park — both kinds of holes in each ball.

The paddle is hard plastic over a web. It’s played on a shortened tennis court. At East Naples Community Park, they have divisions of players on different courts: beginners, more experienced players, very experienced players and almost professionals. And these people are serious players.

They play 5 days a week from 9 a.m. to noon, and the public is encouraged to come and watch.

Along with these games, the players in this club, Southern Tropics, reach out to the children at Avalon Elementary School to involve them in learning to play. The children love the game, so the team is working on fundraising through their nonprofit, “Pickleball for all,” to buy the students the balls and rackets needed for their size, so that the school can involve them in playing the game.

The Southern Tropics also reached out to a local AMIkids group, who started out ridiculing them about it appearing to be a sissy game, but then slowly came out of their barracks to try their hand, and before a couple hours had passed, everyone was outside and enjoying a spirited, happy game. The AMIkids employees stated they hadn’t seen such enthusiasm in these kids in a long time and asked how much the equipment cost. Instead of just saying goodbye, the Southern Comfort Club said they would leave their balls, rackets and nets there for the youth.

Why not stop by and watch them play at the East Naples Community Park? You’ll love it. And while I’m telling you about them, they are truly excited to have scored the largest pickleball tournament in history right here in Collier County.

As the club prepares for the huge U.S. Open Tournament in April 2016, I will suggest to Collier County’s Parks and Recreation Department to build another court or two to hold the crowds and the players coming from all over the U.S., and hopefully they will have a roof over the courts for the summer players as well as rain protection.

The group is also going to host a USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) sanctioned tournament in February 2016 at East Naples Community Park.

They have also included a junior division to get the younger generation involved. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for the park under tournament conditions. Volunteers and sponsors will be needed for both events.