BROCTON - The Sport with the funny name has been in Chautauqua County for a couple of years and is growing enormously across the country and the world. The sport we are referring to is "Pickleball," played on a court one third the size of a tennis court with paddles instead of racquets and a ball that looks like a wiffle ball, but we are assured it's much different than that. Former Professional Racquetball player and instructor, Mike Ferguson of Fredonia is hooked on the sport. So much so that he is now an Official "Ambassador" for the USAPA, the governing body of the Sport.
"Gary Mrowka and his wife Rita from Dunkirk were the people who originally introduced the game to us here in Northern Chautauqua County," said Ferguson. "Gary is the first USAPA Ambassador in the area representing the City of Dunkirk and I was added recently to work in the Fredonia area. Earlier this year we formed The Northern Chautauqua Pickleball Club and things keep growing on a daily basis." Currently, the group plays indoors four nights a week at the Northern Chautauqua Boys and Girls Club on Route 5 in Dunkirk. Ed Kirchmeyer or Fredonia and Carol Cotton of Dunkirk manage the program with a Tuesday night: "Experts in the Making" beginners class that has averaged 14-15 people per week. Outdoors in better weather, you will find them on Tenney Street where Mrowka and friends built two courts on an old tennis court site. Plans are in the works for new courts in both Fredonia and Dunkirk soon. Ferguson says he is working with the Fredonia Recreation Department and hopes to have people playing at Russell Joy Park beginning in May. The group will also take part in teaching children the sport during this Summer's Parks and Rec programming.
Ferguson says that other communities have already jumped on the sports bandwagon. "Westfield, Lakewood, Silver Creek, Jamestown, Bemus Point have all built courts, or added lines to their existing tennis courts to include Pickleball." The Buffalo market has exploded, already playing host to the third annual New York State Championship, which will be played in Amherst. Fredonia residents, Steve Lundine and his brother-in-law Steve Dziduch won a State Doubles title at last year New York State Championship. National tournaments such as the U.S. Open and the Huntsman Senior Games have sold out their registrations for the tournaments as fast as tickets for a rock concert. "Once a tournament is announced, players are registering within minutes to get in on the action. said Ferguson. The Open sold out with both players and spectators within 35 minutes of going on sale!"
The sport with the funny name has been in Chautauqua County for a couple of years and is growing enormously across the country and the world. The sport is “Pickleball,” played on a court one third the size of a tennis court with paddles instead of racquets and a ball that looks like a wiffle ball.
Named after the inventors dog, "Pickle", who would chase wayward balls that flew of course and return them to the players, Pickleball has evolved from a backyard tennis game to a truly competitive sport. Dunkirk residents, Nick Lyman and Brian Esperson have spent the last two weekends representing the club at tournaments in Webster, New York and Warren, Pa. Mike Ferguson has teamed up with another former racquetball player, Paul Cybart and Dunkirk's Frank Porpiglia for a number of tournaments as well. "You can play with a $7.00 paddle from Ollie's or a $125.00 paddle from a major manufacturer. Like any hot sport, the equipment continues to evolve to fit the needs of both recreational and competitive players." said the former touring pro. "Pickleball has allowed me to be competitive again. It's lit a fire that has gotten me off the couch and back into the game." said Ferguson.
The club will be holding a free "Intro to Pickleball" at the Brocton High School gymnasium on Wednesday, March 29th at 7:00 p.m. You don't need equipment just dress appropriately with a good pair of shoes for some exercise and fun. "If you've never played a sport in your entire life. Or are playing now and looking for some competition or just a great way to get in shape. This is the sport for you." said Mike. The USAPA predicts that over 60 million people in the U.S. alone will be taking up the sport. Some communities in Florida and Arizona boast well over 120 courts in a single community. For additional information on the sport, go to: www.usapa.org or contact the Northern Chautauqua Pickleball Club at email@example.com or 716-627-8999.