As folks walk in, they sign up on a white board to play a round and find a paddle. Some have already been playing since 9:15 a.m., learning the rules of the game. Those who have just signed up wait on metal bleachers. They’re waiting to play pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.
Chapel Hill resident Jim Wilson had been traveling to Cary to play pickleball when he moved to North Carolina. He introduced his friend JB Marr to the sport, and the two approached Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation to make changes to courts to make pickleball available in Chapel Hill. They are now the ambassadors of pickleball in Chapel Hill and Pittsboro.
“I fought my way into the community center,” Wilson said.
He said they started with one net and his personal paddles and balls.
Pickleball is a mutation of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Compared to tennis, the net is lower and the court is smaller. Instead of letting the ball bounce on the court, players volley the ball back and forth, like in badminton.
Wilson said there are 400 residents on the pickleball email list, with about 20 percent being regular players. He said the core age group is between 55 and 70, but players as young as 13 and as experienced as 85-years-old play.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the basketball court in the Chapel Hill Community Center is reserved from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for pickleball.