There was plenty of chatter, plenty of fun and a lot of questions raised during a recent Thursday night at Halifax Country Club.

Approximately 25 people, several playing and several watching, were gathered at the club’s tennis courts, all being introduced to the sport of pickleball. It was Halifax Country Club’s second pickleball outing, and there was plenty of fun amid the gathering.

“We’re still introducing it,” remarked Linda Lumsden, who, along with Bill Blanks, is introducing the sport to club members.

“There aren’t any other pickleball courts here in Halifax County that I am aware of. What we did at Halifax Country Club is take one of the three tennis courts we have, repaired the surface a bit, and turned it into two pickleball courts, so we can have two games going on at the same time and not interfere with each other.”

For those who need a quick course on the sport of pickleball, it is a sport that combines various elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The sport can be played both outdoors or indoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. Pickleball is played with a paddle and plastic ball with holes that resembles a whiffle ball. The sport can be played in either a singles or doubles format.

According to a SIFA (Sports & Fitness Industry Association) Topline Participation Report released in 2018, there were 3.1 million pickleball players, with the numbers continuing to climb.

Pickleball is being introduced to teenagers in physical education classes in middle and high schools across the country.

The sport is becoming increasingly popular at retirement locations, retirement communities and country clubs across the country. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA) 2016 Participant Report, there are more than 2.5 million pickleball participants in the United States.

“People of all ages are playing it,” Lumsden pointed out.

“This is the start of it here. We’re still introducing it. Most of the people here tonight have not played it before and aren’t familiar with the game. We’re teaching rules as we go.

“The people that came the last time we had a pickleball social really enjoyed it,” Lumsden continued, “and we have several people here that came last time that wanted to play again. If we can educate enough people on how to play, people will play with each other.”

Blanks was the person that introduced the idea of bringing the sport of pickleball to Halifax Country Club.

“A friend of mine, Bill Glenn from Roaring Gap Club in Roaring Gap, North Carolina, told me about pickleball,” Blanks explained.

“He told me they had it at his country club. I thought maybe this might be good for the people here at Halifax Country Club. I introduced it at a board meeting and put up a video on how it’s played and that kind of thing.

“The (tennis) courts here haven’t been used that much over the last few years, because tennis is dwindling down,” continued Blanks.

“We decided we needed to use these courts, so we decided to bring pickleball into action here to try to get some people playing. Greg Donner helped us and prepared the courts for us, and here we are trying it out.”

Blanks pointed out that the big draw to the sport is that anyone of any age can play it.

“It’s a low-impact sport,” he pointed out.

“Any age can play it, including older folks. The court is a third of the size of a regular tennis court. It’s not as much wear and tear on your knees because you’re not covering a big court. It’s a fun game. It’s the fastest-growing game in the U.S. right now.”

Lumsden said pickleball is beginning to catch on.

“A few people in town have heard about it and bought paddles,” she pointed out.

“Right now, this is for Halifax Country Club members. There are some people that have expressed an interest in joining the country club because of the pickleball.

“We’re hoping more members will be interested in coming out,” added Lumsden.

“As we get more players, and players start to get out here more, I expect we will have some pickleball competitions and tournaments happening, maybe by the end of the summer.”

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com.

Joe Chandler is the sports editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at jchandler@gazettevirginian.com