ESCANABA, Mich. (WZMQ) – On Friday, the Catherine Bonifas Civic Center hosted a pickleball clinic.
The clinic was divided into three groups, allowing anyone from beginners to established players looking to improve their game to participate.
Instructor Alex LaChapelle, who is certified by the Professional Pickleball Registry, actually started out in a different sport. He says he once played tennis “religiously.”
“I had a couple knee surgeries and somebody said, ‘Have you tried playing pickleball?'” LaChapelle said. “I went from a guy who didn’t play anymore to playing for or five times a week.”
Now, he shares his love of the game with others.
LaChapelle says pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. He says one reason is that pickleball is often more accessible than sports like tennis.
“It’s a little bit smaller court, so it’s a little bit easier to move around,” he explained. “If you’re watching the French Open, they’re running literally 60 feet, left to right. Here you can move slowly but strategically, and still be playing quite a competitive game, break a sweat, have some fun.”
The sport has also been gaining momentum here in Escanaba. Earlier this year, the Escanaba Recreation Department applied for four grants. The funds would primarily be used to construct eight pickleball courts in Royce Park.
“Our numbers increase daily and everyone is looking for outdoor play, especially during the summer,” said Recreation Department director Kim Peterson. “If we get the grant dollars, we are going to make them tournament play so we can bring some tournaments in town and generate some revenues for downtown businesses.”
As pickleball’s popularity continues to rise, LaChapelle encourages anyone interested to try out the easy-to-learn sport and to join the growing community.
“Anytime that you have an opportunity to hit around with somebody, take the opportunity, don’t ever be afraid of showing up,” he said. “Pickleball players are nice. Usually when you walk on the court, someone’s going to say, ‘Sure, grab a paddle!’ It’s a really social sport, so it’s really great.”
LaChapelle is also on the board of the Superiorland Pickleball Club in Marquette. The club is hosting a tournament on Saturday, June 10, as well as a Kiwanis Tournament in August. Click here for more information.