Franklin Park is home to a new pickleball court. The YMCA also has several courts. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Franklin Park is home to a new pickleball court. The YMCA also has several courts. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – In the last eight years, pickleball has become an increasingly popular game at the Van Wert YMCA – so much so that the center started with one court and has now grown to have five pickleball courts. Recently, a pickleball court was installed at Franklin Park.

Pickleball is somewhat of a cross between tennis and ping-pong, according to YMCA Director and avid pickleballer Hugh Kocab.

Wiffleballs and paddles are used to play the game and it can either be played by a single player against another single player or with doubles. Similar to tennis, there is a net. However, it is lower than a tennis net would be.

“There are certain rules as to when you serve, how you keep points, when you can hit a ball in the air, and when you have to let it bounce,” said Kocab. “Then there is an area that is a ‘no-volley’ zone. Up close to the net, you can not be in there to hit the ball unless somebody hits it to that spot really short; that’s called a dink.”

‘The fun part about it is that it doesn’t matter how old you are,” said Kocab who noted that children and elderly alike both enjoy pickleball.

On any given day residents can be found playing pickleball at the YMCA. Kocab said around 40 to 50 people have taken an interest in the game at the Y.

Typically a game lasts around 15 minutes and the first to score a set amount of points wins. Usually, people spend around one to two hours playing the game at a time.

There are several types of wiffleballs that can be used. For those who like to play a bit slower, larger wiffleballs with larger holes can be used. The larger holes help to slow the ball down. Those wishing to play a quicker-paced game will want to use a smaller ball with smaller holes.

Those wishing to play a competitive game of pickleball can do so at various tournaments. Kocab explained that there are tournaments about once a month within driving distance to Van Wert and even some held in Van Wert.

“We’ll have teams come from Lima and Fort Wayne,” said Kocab. “The furthest we’ve gone is Portland, Indiana.”

“It’s a sport where you don’t even realize you’re exercising,” added Kocab. “You’re having fun and the next thing you know you’re covered in sweat and getting your exercise in.”

Those interested in playing pickleball can learn in about a week, said Kocab. Those with a membership at a YMCA can learn from others who are more experienced. Typically beginners are paired together so that each person is playing against others with similar ability.

“I enjoy getting an exercise in and having fun doing the exercises,” said Kocab. “If you get on the treadmill or elliptical, you know you’re working. When you play pickleball, you don’t realize you’re working until your shirt is soaking wet.”