(Photos by Steve Ognibene. Story by Phil Coburn.)
Pickleball you say? If you’re wondering what this is, it’s a relatively new sport activity in Batavia! It’s lots of fun, easy to learn, and is one of the fastest-growing sports in America.
The game is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and is played over a net that is 2 inches lower than a tennis net. The court is 20 feet x 44 feet, about half the size of a tennis court. The ball is a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball, and the paddles are wood or composite material.
The game is adaptable to all ages from youth to seniors, and both male and female. Due to the smaller court and lighter ball, it requires much less running and has less impact on the knees, arms and shoulders than tennis.
Locally, it all started after Batavia residents Phil and Bonnie Coburn decided to travel in an RV across the United States in 2007. They had often said “What will we do if we can’t play tennis anymore?" Well, very quickly they saw some pickleball being played, and they became hooked! Upon returning to Batavia, they located a group in Ogden and played there for a couple years.
Then, after getting tired of driving 25 miles each way, they spoke to the people at the YMCA in Batavia in 2012, and they agreed to let them tape two courts in the gym. They got help from Dave Thomas in Rochester to do the layout, and he also gave them a portable net to use. They obtained grant money from the USAPA, and bought another portable net.
Thus, pickleball was born in Batavia with about six players participating.
About two years later, the gym floor was refinished, and the lines were painted on for a more permanent facility. At about the same time, Eric Volk lent a hand, and they worked with the Town of Batavia to have pickleball lines painted on the tennis courts at Kiwanis Park (replacing the tape which didn’t do too well in the elements), adding the first outside courts in the area.
This year, again with encouragement from Eric, the city, as part of the court renewal at Kibbe Park and Farrall Park, painted pickleball lines on the tennis courts, giving participants an additional five outdoor courts to play on in the area.
(At one of the newest lined courts at Kibbe Park, pictured below are some members of the Batavia Pickleball Club, from left are: Joann McCabe, Chloe Budenhagen, Becky Swanson, and founding members Bonnie and Phil Coburn.)
The YMCA has been very supportive of this activity, and currently there is play scheduled in the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday nights from 6:30-8 p.m.. Currently, every Saturday from 9:30-noon, players are welcome at Kibbe Park. Partners are not assigned, but use the "open" system of rotation for players waiting to play.
From the original six players, it has grown to around 30 fairly active players, and the ability level has definitely increased since those early days. There has been some discussion about holding a tournament next year for our local players, but there are no details available yet.
The club is always looking for additional players to try the sport, and to continue to help this activity gain momentum in Genesee County. Pickleball has become part of Physical Education in many schools, and is played in many parks and recreational facilities across the country. The Batavia YMCA has set the cost for non-Y members at $30 for a 10-play pass, $49 for a 7-week unlimited pass, or a $5 "drop-in" pass. No fee for Saturday play.