Womens Racquetball

Pickleball for All in Sonoma County looks like fun

Judy LaBrucherie was walking down the street near Sunrise Park in Rohnert Park when before she knew it, her Thursday and Saturday mornings were gone.

Whoosh, just like that, a good slice of LaBrucherie’s life belonged to pickleball.

And you won’t hear any complaints about it.

“We were just passing by and the clinic was here,” she said of a morning walk with her husband Darren about four months ago.

They looked through the fence, saw hordes of people playing pickleball, having fun, and went to ask what the fuss was about.

“We walked in, they lent us a racquet and that was it,” she said.

Since then, they have been coming twice a week to the free, volunteer-run introductory clinics on the city grounds of Rohnert Park.

Brooke Davis of Rohnert Park had a more conscious decision to make regarding her relationship with pickleball, which is a bit like tennis, except it’s played on a smaller court and with a wiffle-like ball and something that looks like giant ping pong. paddle.

“Well, my husband was playing and he was never home, so I decided that if I wanted to be with him, I had to learn how to play,” she said. “It’s been such a pleasure.”

And the leaders brought him back.

“They are patient, they are good coaches,” she said. “And they give back to the community and how could I not want to be a part of it?”

The idea of ​​free community tutorials started a little over a year ago.

Bill Petrie, 79, who is a true official ambassador for the game of pickleball, was offering what he calls “introductory sessions” to beginners on Saturday mornings at Sunrise Park.

Think: it’s a paddle, it’s a ball, it’s where you stand, that sort of thing.

But the Pengel sisters (well, some of them), all pickleball enthusiasts, thought, let’s take it a step further.

“Miriam and Molly got interested and said ‘Let’s do it Thursday too,'” he said. “It was just kind of word of mouth and it started to get bigger and bigger.”


In just over a year, free sessions have grown to over 40 people on average on Thursday mornings and over 60 people show up regularly for Saturday morning sessions.

“The pickleball just exploded and everyone went crazy about it,” said Miriam Pengel, one of three Pengel sisters who volunteer at the clinics.

The whole operation is informal and entirely voluntary, but it is organised. Players are placed based on their ability and experience, and instructors work with them accordingly.

Dave Harris works with the most experienced people, using a ball machine and critiquing footwork.

Petrie and the Pengels move between other groups talking about paddling, position and tracking.

These clinics are so popular that Rohnert Park Pickleball was chosen to host the pickleball competition as part of the Advice on Aging Wine Country Games which open on Friday.

About 240 pickleball players are expected to play in women’s, men’s and mixed matches over three days at Sunrise Park, according to Petrie.

“We just like to bring people into the game,” he said.

To that end, this edition of the Wine Country Games Pickleball Tournament will have more entry slots than ever before.

Competition categories no longer prohibit beginners. Participants must have a certain skill level, but they don’t need to be on the verge of turning pro to play.

“It was important because there are so many people saying, ‘Why can’t we play? “Said longtime pickleball tutor Miriam Pengel. “Why not? Let them play.

Davis has only been playing the game for a year, but is a regular at free clinics and jumps at the chance to play in a tournament environment.

Kind of.

She’s actually a little nervous.

“I’ve never played in a tournament before,” she said. “And my partner Lori has never played before, so we’re super nervous and we weren’t going to play but then we thought, well this is (the newbies) and these are our friends, so we’re going to play. “

This is the feeling that morning clinic facilitators try to foster: confidence mixed with a healthy dose of fun.

LaBrucherie and her husband, both of tennis backgrounds, signed up for the mixed doubles tournament.

“(I play) with my husband who is very competitive, so hopefully we’ll talk after the game,” she said.

And all for a good cause. The tournament benefits the non-profit organization, advice on agingwhich has been providing services to people over 60 in Sonoma County for more than five decades.