By Tim Whistine
ou have probably heard of pickleball, but maybe you haven’t yet played the fastest growing sport in America. Despite having been around for the past five decades, Pickleball is having its moment in the sun as people have caught on to the craze for the game that is a mash-up of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reported a nearly 40 percent growth of the sport over the past two years, with 4.8 million players in the U.S. in 2021. Locally, Shreveport-Bossier has also seen an explosion of interest in the sport over the past two years as well.
Pickleball’s first debut was in the mid-1960s in Washington when three dads looked unsuccessfully for equipment to play badminton in order to combat their families’ boredom. Failing to find a full set of badminton rackets, the friends concocted a similar game using a perforated plastic ball, ping-pong paddles, and a 60-inch badminton net. They soon realized the perforated ball bounced well on a hard surface leading them to lower the net to 36-inches. This simple backyard game has since evolved into a nationwide phenomenon.
Bossier City resident Tonia Zuber is a relatively new pickleball enthusiast, having only been introduced to the sport a year and a half ago when she visited the YMCA with a friend. She was immediately taken by how friendly the other players were and how eager they were to share their knowledge of the game. “It’s social and it’s competitive, but everybody there wanted so much for us to learn how play,” Zuber said. “They just took us under their wing.”
There have long been places to play pickleball around town, but the courts have always been affiliated with tennis centers, and the courts were modified tennis courts, with tape or paint on the surface to mark pickleball boundaries. After Zuber and several of her pickleball-loving friends visited a pickleball resort near Cabo, Mexico, last year, she had an idea. “That was the first time I’d ever played on a designated pickleball court, where you didn’t have a zillion lines you were looking at and trying to figure out, is this the pickleball boundary or is it the basketball or volleyball line? And I thought, why can’t we have something like this in Shreveport-Bossier?”
Zuber got to work with the leadership of Bellaire Baptist Church to bring Bossier City’s first designated pickleball courts to Bellaire Fitness Center, and on March 19, she was present at the pickleball courts’ grand opening. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning at 10:30, the fitness center offers a beginner class for adults, and Zuber says classes have stayed full. “It’s been my experience in this year and a half playing the game that any time a beginner starts, we’re all eager to help them learn how to play,” she said. “I love the competitiveness of it, but I also love the community of the people.”