Bama Beach Pickleball Club growing the game one school at a time

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The Bama Beach Pickleball Club is working hard to grow the game of pickleball, one middle school at a time.

In early March, Bama Pickleball Club representatives donated three sets of pickleball equipment to Orange Beach Middle School. Lucy Douty, Eddie McDonald and Richard Eads met with Orange Beach Middle School physical education teacher, Shane Alexander for the donation presentation.

“Being a brand-new school this year, especially being here in the rec center, we didn’t have a whole lot of equipment. With the new school coming this is going to be perfect. This is the first equipment for the new school. We are excited. I have taught pickleball for 20 years now and the kids always love it. I get out there and play with them,” Alexander said.

McDonald spoke about the club’s commitment to giving equipment to area schools.

“Our club had a tournament the week of Valentine’s and before we put the tournament on, we designated that we were going to take the money and give to middle schools,” he said. “We had done this before and gave equipment to Foley Intermediate School.”

According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game was invented in 1965 by three fathers whose children were bored with their usual summer activities. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited with inventing the game.

Pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the U.S. and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. It can be played indoor or outdoor on a badminton sized court with a modified tennis net. The game is played with paddles and plastic balls with holes that are like wiffle balls and can be played in doubles or singles. The rules are simple, and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players of all ages.

“I came down from North Alabama in May to interview for this job. They brought me in here to show me the gym and people were playing (pickleball) and let me tell you, it was heated,” Alexander laughed.

McDonald said the game is popular among snowbirds.

“In the winter, when the snowbirds are here, it’s packed. We would have 50-60 a session,” McDonald said.

There’s been a rise in the number of pickleball courts and tournaments everywhere, including here in Baldwin County. McDonald formed the Bama Beach Pickleball Club in October, 2017 with a handful of members.

There are now approximately 100 members. The group plays at the Gulf Shores Church of Christ Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 6 - 9 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. The cost is $3 per person, and a typical day sees around 35 players on the courts.

Those who are looking for a place to play can download the Places to Play app and input your location to get a detailed map of nearby places that offer pickleball courts.

For those who want to join the Bama Beach Pickleball Club, they have organized courts from beginner to advanced, so you can play with those who have similar levels. The sport is very social and offers lots of talking and laughing during the games, and when people aren’t playing at the club then they’re often chatting as they wait for an open court.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Bama Beach Pickleball Club, check out their website at https://bamabeachpickleballclub.teamapp.com.