The fastest-growing sport in the country is coming to Fort Mill next month and organizers are hoping to attract a new breed of players.
Pickleball will be arriving at Banks Street Gym starting with a free beginner’s clinic Aug. 2. The gym will then host weekly free games 9 a.m.-noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Banks Gym location was organized by Trish Snyder, the USA Pickleball Association ambassador for Fort Mill and Tega Cay.
“I’ve been playing for eight years or so, and I was approached by somebody from the area who was looking for someone to set something up in this area,” Snyder said.
Pickleball, which is a combination of badminton, ping pong and tennis and is played on a court smaller than a tennis court with a paddle larger than a ping pong paddle and a ball that resembles a Wiffle ball, is already being played in Rock Hill, Clover and other surrounding areas. The sport can be played indoors or out – the Banks Street Gym will be played indoors, and although there is no air conditioning Snyder said it’s bearable.
The sport’s popularity stems from how easy it is to learn, said Snyder.
“It’s growing by leaps and bounds and it’s really exploding. I started playing in Myrtle Beach about eight years ago and there was a handful of people,” she said. “Now that area has over 200 players and that’s just in that short amount of time.
“It’s growing so fast because it is good for everyone because of the ease. We get a lot of crossover players such as tennis players who can’t play because it’s too hard on their bodies. This is a little more gentle on their body and it can be played from everyone from seniors to 10-year-olds.”
Snyder has already done clinics at the Baxter and Clover branches of the YMCA, and in Pineville. She said each time there have been 15 to 20 people interested in learning about the sport and hoping the Banks Street location will attract even more newcomers.
“It’s really easy to pick up and start playing,” Snyder said. “Once people start playing, they get hooked. It’s amazing how it has grown. It’s the fastest growing sport in the U.S. right now.”
The Banks Street location will be free and open to everyone.
There are already pickleball games being played at the Baxter YMCA, but players must be members. There are three locations in Rock Hill – at The Shield of Faith Church and at the Northside and Boyd Hill recreation centers.
Leroy Springs in Fort Mill is open to starting a pickleball program, but it would not be free according to Mary McFadden, who had been playing in Rock Hill and looking for a spot to open in Fort Mill.
Snyder said she hopes to continue to grow the sport and urges players to give it a shot.
“I originally got into it at Myrtle Beach when I was attending a New Year fitness event,” she said. “I was hooked right away. It’s great fun for all ages and the great thing is that adults can play with their child. I’ve seen mother-son and mother-daughter teams playing so it’s fun for everyone.”