“It’s my service,” says Willie Tracy. Across the field, his opponent mustered a wiffle ball toward him.
At Cabra Parkside Community Sports Center, approximately 16 to 18 people play pickle ball on Wednesday evening. Some of Willie’s opponents are 45 years younger than him. Pickleball, in its infancy in Ireland, unites different ages, genders, and abilities to compete and play with one another.
Like a mixture of tennis, table tennis, and badminton, pickle ball is played in doubles, on a badminton court, with each player holding a paddle and hitting the ball over the net. Unlike tennis, the net is lower, the court is smaller, and the rules are different. Unlike tennis, which takes time to master, rallies can—and they are—begin with your first pickle ball session.
The rules can be tricky for beginners, but “we took it very quickly,” says Tracy. “It’s a great game, playing sports and it’s fun which is a must. We play for about an hour, and it goes by really fast because we are having so much fun.”
Pickleball was introduced to Ireland in 2016 by Michael McDaid, who founded Pickleball Ireland. The pandemic suddenly put an end to the development of the pond, but in 2022, Pickleball Ireland was established as a not-for-profit entity.
The game involves running back and forth to ensure the ball passes over the net, but it can be accessed in a way that tennis and badminton are not available.
“I’m 70 and it’s easy, you just get in the game, you get a good run, a good workout, a good workout without the gym. It’s really a win for all parties.”
The game is very popular in the United States, with professional and influential players in blackball and even its own magazine, InPickleball.
But for Stephanie Barman, who moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Ireland nine years ago, she only heard from her mother when she came home for Christmas in December 2021.
“My mom is mad about it, and she’s 60! She was like Stephanie! She should come over to play pickle ball. So we roped her in, and before we left we bought some paddles from Amazon and yeah, we were like, ‘How are we going to play this?”
When she returned to Ireland, she looked for clubs in Dublin.
“I was actively looking for pickle ball clubs because I had so much fun. It is an easy game to learn and can be played by any age, it really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, you can play with kids or adults, like I played with my little cousin before which is just crazy cool.
“If you’re willing to go out and have a little fun, you’ll be great. You swap partners so you can always be at different levels of competition and when you switch if you take something new every time, you’re going to learn something.”
“People who’ve played tennis or something with hand-eye coordination will pick it up easily. You see some people who have certain shots and they just hit them, some of them run and it’s like there’s ‘no way to get it’ and some do. Any age can do it.” surely “.
PIckleball is part of Dublin City Council’s Dublin City Sports and Wellbeing Partnership, says Michael Waters, Council Sports Development Officer.
When Waters started pickle ball as part of her role, it was with the seniors, “some people in their 80s,” which continues Monday with the “older adult group.”
Sports is for everyone, says Waters, with an emphasis on motivating people.
“We have been involved with primary school children in the local area, and we recently have North Dublin Islamic School [who] They went down for their active study week. They came into the auditorium and did three classes and got an introduction to the baseball game. It is a versatile, dynamic and great sport for the fit people, but also for the elderly. Come September, we hope to serve the disabled.
“The difficulty is getting people to venture into the hall to try, but once they enter, they are addicted! I’ve been noticing for weeks, I can see the difference in skill levels, it’s awesome.”
The jump in skill level also stands out for the barman.
“Some of these people – I brought in two girls for the first time – so good! It’s an easy sport to get someone new – they’ve all been playing for 2-8 weeks and they look good.”
The Dublin City Council Partnership has invested in the ballgame in Capra, so entry is free. Other centers charge a small fee to play, and all centers provide paddles, balls and nets.
“We’re trying to get it in other areas, and get the other athletic officers involved, it’s great, you can have young, old, mixed gender, it’s great. I hope it goes from strength to strength,” says Waters.
For Barman, you’d like to see the game grow along with the increased reach.
“It’s just about the utilities, and the easy thing Dublin City Council can do is line the courts in the public spaces. Public parks, if they have pickle lines, they’ll start to get people interested. You don’t necessarily need the grid to be at the right height, it’s about Just by knowing if you have the font. So we set our tags and that way, but at least that seems to be the beginning.”
Pickleball Ireland is planning a one-day festival in October this year, and is looking to host the Pickleball Open, with competitors from the US and Europe, in June 2023. For Treacy, that’s all good news.
“Hopefully we can get a good enough level to progress and play in some competitive matches maybe with other clubs. It’s an American game, there will be a lot of interest in games between countries you know? Maybe international matches?
“It all depends on how far we go, it will be for the next guys. They are really good and they are really competitive, for us and for the group we are in now, it is really great.”