Pickleball Grows in Edina

Nation’s fastest-growing sport reaches Edina.
Edina resident Storey Holland plays pickleball at Garden Park.

If you haven’t yet heard about pickleball, you need to get hip to the fastest-growing sport in the nation. Despite its silly-sounding name, pickleball is a compelling, vigorous and altogether addictive sport. It was invented in 1965 by happy accident, when two friends lacked the proper equipment to play badminton one afternoon. They improvised and used a whiffle ball, smaller paddles and a lower net. The family cocker spaniel, Pickles, loved to chase the errant balls into the bushes, so the sport was named in his honor. The official pickleball website refers to the game as a “highly contagious, progressive and incurable disease.” Those who try the sport invariably get swept up in pickleball mania, never to return. The first pickleball court was installed on the West Coast in 1967; Edina recently jumped on the bandwagon and is actively cultivating its own pickleball league.But what the heck is pickleball? Imagine a cross-pollination of badminton, whiffle ball, Ping-Pong and tennis, using paddles and a dividing net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It is typically played as doubles.Because pickleball involves less lateral movement and shorter traveling distances than tennis, it is popular with senior citizens. Many of the participants had played racquetball or tennis, but pickleball is gentler on knees and ankles. Pickleball is admirably gender-neutral, favoring neither men nor women, and it’s also easy on the pocketbook (former golfers are astounded by the cheap price of play). People with every level of experience can play; all ages are encouraged to join. Donna Tilsner, Parks and Recreation supervisor and Edina’s own pickleball maven, is helping create a pickleball renaissance in an open space near you. “We had a couple of residents who requested pickleball courts,” she says. “We took over a tennis court and offered a free clinic for two days. Forty people came to each session—so many more than we expected!” Tilsner is dedicated to growing the sport of pickleball in Edina. “The public wants it,” she says. “We’re doing a grassroots effort and encouraging players to form a local club like they did in Eden Prairie. Our Edina club could really have power and raise funds.” The Edina Parks and Recreation Department has four paddles and multiple balls on hand at the new pickleball court for people to try. The intention is to encourage enthusiasts to buy their own gear and keep the Edina pickleball movement growing. As Tilsner points out, “It is also a great time to socialize—you might have to wait a bit to get your turn on the court, so bring your lawn chair, some water, and meet a neighbor.” & Basic Pickleball Rules:A standard pickleball court measures 20 feet by 44 feet and can be played as singles or doubles. The ball is served diagonally. Points are scored by the serving team. The ball must bounce once before hitting. There is a 7-foot off-limits zone on either side of the net to prevent spiking. The serving team continues to serve until they fault. A fault is when the ball is hit out of bounds, hits the net, is hit from the non-volley zone or is hit before bouncing. Whichever side reaches 11 points first wins. The game must be won by two points.   WHERE TO PLAY Garden Park is at 5520 Hansen Road, just south of Vernon Avenue and Hansen Street, and just west of Highway 100 and Vernon Avenue/50th Street. Open pickleball play is Monday through Wednesday 9 to 11 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.