Fitness World hopes the clinic will spark more local interest in the fast-growing sport

Pickleball is growing in popularity across the country. In some places, it becomes difficult to book a court.

It’s not a problem in Jacksonville – not yet. But Fitness World hopes to help grow the sport with a tutoring clinic on Monday, April 25 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The clinic is free and open to the public.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in pickleball not only from the community, but specifically from Fitness World members,” said Ryne Turke, Athletic Director of Fitness World.

Anyone interested in pickleball can learn how to play the game at Monday’s clinic. It will also serve as a refresher course for people who already know how to play. Two courts will be available, as well as paddles and balls.


Turke said 8 to 10 people currently play Fitness World a few days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Turke said Fitness World players are in their 30s and 60s. “People really like to play before work, which is great,” he said.

Bob Freesen YMCA in Jacksonville hosts pickleball games Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Six-week clinics begin June 14-16.

Pickleball is made up of various parts of other racquet sports. It has paddles like table tennis, a net like tennis, and a court the size of a badminton court. The ball looks a lot like a Wiffle ball.

The game was created by three guys who were trying to organize a badminton game but couldn’t find a shuttlecock. They did, however, have a Wiffle ball. To make it work, they lowered the net and made plywood paddles, and a sport was born.

Pickleball is named after Joan Pritchard, whose husband was a co-creator. She said the disparate nature of the game’s components reminded her of the “pickle boats” of competitive rowing, which are made up of a combination of rowers from different teams.

The thing is, the game has nothing to do with pickles.

Pickleball gets you moving, but because the court is smaller, you don’t take the knocks you would in tennis. “You’re really going to be active, but it’s something anyone can learn and play after a day,” Turke said. “The rules are extremely simple. If you know tennis, if you know ping-pong, it’s a bit in the same direction. But you can sweat very well playing very fast.

It is not necessarily a slow paced sport. Your uncle Fred plays ping-pong, but so does Forrest Gump. “We have a group of about eight guys who are about as competitive as they come,” Turke said. “They’re in their mid to late thirties. They’ve been out and just ripped up the pitch. They’re having a great time exercising.

“We have a few other ladies who have come in, and they are a bit more laid back with their game, but are using it as an alternate day. Instead of working out at the gym for cardio and weights, they like to have a fun day out where they come to play pickleball a few days a week.

Turke said senior members of Fitness World have started to take an interest in the game. Some snowbirds returning from Florida have reported playing pickleball a lot there. This sparked Fitness World’s initial interest in the sport.

As it is on a smaller court, the players are closer together, so there is more chance of socializing than there is on a tennis court. It’s a good game for old or young. “We know it’s a great workout,” Turke said, “and a really fun, social community game that people can get involved in.”

Fitness World has two indoor pickleball courts and could add a third if there is enough interest. Starting in May, Fitness World will schedule evening matches two days a week.

“A lot of people just don’t know how to play the game,” Turke said, “so I thought I might as well teach them, and hopefully we can kind of grow our community into a community pickleball.”

Those planning to attend Monday’s free clinic are encouraged to register online at https://fitnessworldhc.com to help organizers plan how much equipment they will need.

“I’m just excited to bring it to Jacksonville,” Turke said, “and it’s another sport that I think can really grow in this community.”

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