The fastest growing sport in the country takes hold in Sheridan

Courts get a facelift

Pickleball. Fun to say, fun to play! It is also the fastest growing sport in the nation, and possibly Madison County. It combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It is played with a paddle and a ball with holes in it on a badminton or modified tennis court. The game is appropriate for all ages and all skill levels.

Pickleball came to the Ruby Valley courtesy of Tom Walter and his wife Marilyn. “We were introduced to the game three years ago in Arizona,” Tom stated. Marilyn then thought of the old tennis courts in Sheridan and with the support of Mayor Robert Stump one old tennis court was transformed into two new pickleball courts. In that small amount of time, which included a smokey summer that decreased play, the Sheridan Pickleball Club gained almost forty members.

The fast-growing sport was created by three gentlemen in Bainbridge Island, Wash., 1965. It started when Joel Pritchard, a congressman at the time, made up the game to show his kids how to beat their boredom. They all instantly loved the game, so Pritchard brought in two friends to help refine the rules and racket. The name Pickleball, however, is attributed to his wife, Joan Pritchard. She was a fan of crew racing and knew the extra rowers at a competition were often placed in a spare boat, a pickle boat, to race just for fun. It has been claimed that she named the game after her dog Pickles, but this is not true. Pickles the dog came three years later.

By 1984 there was a pickleball rulebook, by 2001 the sport was featured in the Arizona Senior Olympics, and by 2017 there were 5,900 locations to play in the United States. ( Since then the sport has really taken hold and there are 8,500 places to play pickleball. It is not certain if that number includes Sheridan, Mont.

The pickleball courts were recently cleaned up and new 36-inch-high nets were installed. The new paint will be done soon, weather permitting. It has been a community affair with Tom and Ed Walter, Bob Stump, Duke Gilman, Art Hall, and Dan Barrill contributing to the project. “It is wonderful seeing locals taking initiative to fix some of these areas up. The parents of the baseball kids all had a clean up of the baseball fields and that was really great to see also,” Gilman said.

There is also an active pickleball community on the Madison side of the county.

Information on the basic rules is easy to find online, and there are even sites dedicated to pickleball fashion. Yes, that is now a thing, and hopefully pickleball in the Ruby is as well. 

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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