The Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club is growing in popularity

It’s 9 a.m. on Friday morning. There is a very distinct sound that can be heard in the 50 acres of Island Park near downtown Mount Pleasant. While, yes, there are faint chirps of laughing children in the playground and splash pool — as well as footsteps of joggers running throughout the property — this particular sound is quite unique.

Imagine the “pong” of a ping-pong ball hitting a racket, combined with the sound of a tee-ball bat hitting a wiffleball. Now add the accent of a tennis ball bouncing on a rubber-covered floor. And finally, mix in a group of adults who encourage each other.

It’s the sound of Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club in play – with more than 25 pickleball players showing up at Island Park’s outdoor pickleball courts for exercise, camaraderie and, of course, some pleasure. In fact, they show up six days a week.

Al Montoye (red) is co-founder of the Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club.Meet the Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club

As an avid former tennis player with a passion for exercise and kinesiology running through his bloodlines, Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club co-founder Al Montoye started playing pickleball indoors with people he met at Morey Courts.

“I’ve played racquetball and tennis for most of my adult life, and I was very interested in learning a new game of racquet,” Al shares. which can be fun to play very early in the learning process.

“As in all sports, there are many skill levels. But even beginners have good games,” he says.

Montoye discovered that pickleball does not require the athleticism and strength requirement that tennis requires. Plus, because it’s played on a court half the size of a tennis court, it’s easier for people with limited mobility to get around, like those who’ve had knee or hip replacement surgery.

“After a few of us started playing indoors, we realized the need to play outdoors,” says Montoye. Al then contacted the City and worked on a collaborative effort that led to a solution: the club raised half the funds, and the City the other half, to paint pickleball court lines on two of the four existing tennis courts at Island Park. Within a year, this process was repeated and the two remaining tennis courts were painted.

During this time, the sport of pickleball not only grew tremendously across the country, but its popularity grew rapidly at the local level as well. After a few successful years at Island Park, a budget has been set aside to redo the park’s pickleball facilities, in the six-court outdoor pickleball complex you see here today.

The Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club consists of over 200 members who receive game updates through the free app, TeamReach. Many of their scheduled playtimes encourage walk-in play, where some players attend once a week and others several days a week. Players vary in both skill level and age (from 20s to players in their 80s).

The transition from tennis and racquetball experience to pickleball is natural for many players. However, the sport also welcomes those new to the game, like Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club member Carolyn Wrisley.

Outside of taking tennis lessons in college, retired CMU employee Carolyn Wrisley had no experience in racquet sports. Then her friends introduced her to pickleball. She started playing indoors a few years ago at Morey Courts and now enjoys exploring the sport outdoors.

“It’s an adjustment to play inside versus outside,” she shares. “Especially with the wind and the sun.”

Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club member Tanja Dunn also had no tennis experience prior to joining the group; however, she had some badminton experience. When she was walking the indoor track at Morey Courts several years ago, she saw people playing pickleball on the courts and started asking questions about the sport.

“I have become addicted! It’s a fun game and it’s easier on your joints than tennis,” says Dunn.

This is definitely one of the main advantages of pickleball. That, and being able to spend a relatively short amount of time learning the basics of the game, and you’re already good to go.

Wrisley (left) and Dunn (right) playing doubles at Island Park.How to play

Pickleball can be played indoors and outdoors, and in singles or doubles – with doubles being more common. The courts are half the size of a traditional tennis court.

Pickleball balls are made of a hard plastic and have holes in them – many people recognize it as a wiffle ball. The racket is a solid paddle made of composite material, and can be found at local sporting goods stores or online. (Montoye plays with paddles made in Michigan by Paddletek).

Games are normally played to 11 points, and points can only be scored by the serving team. All players have the opportunity to serve and rotate between their teammates and opponents after each individual game.

“It’s a game of finesse,” says Montoye.

Between navigating non-volley zones, discovering dinking (or drop shots), and adapting to differences in acceleration and momentum of equipment and balls compared to other racquet sports, there is a variety of skill levels among players. See the official USA Pickleball Association rules here.

Pickleball is played with a wiffle-style racket and ball.

Pickleball is played with a wiffle-style racket and ball.How to get involved

Download the TeamReach app and enter group code 48858 to see the most up-to-date Mt. Pleasant Pickleball Club schedule. Play is currently Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9 a.m.; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 5.30 p.m.; and Sundays at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Island Park. They plan to maintain this schedule throughout the summer and fall until the weather is no longer suitable for play.

Once colder temperatures set in, the club plans to hire indoor courts from Youth for Christ (located in the former Coca-Cola factory near the High Street) and welcome players five times a week throughout the season. ‘winter.

“It worked really well – they were very accommodating to us,” Montoye says of their partnership with Youth for Christ.

In addition, the creation of beginner programs is underway for those who want to try the game for the first time. Information on free instruction through the Club will be posted on the TeamReach app as details develop.

Until then, community members are encouraged to come and learn from members anytime walk-in play.

“We welcome everyone!” reassures Montoye.