Few know about the sport of pickleball, but it's catching on with a Canby-based group

by: RAY HUGHEY - Dale Rohrscheib, of Canby, left, concentrates on a return as he and daughter Angela Cordry, of HIllsboro, defend their side of the court in a game of pickleball. Here’s a fine pickle that athletes of all ages can relish.

It’s the game of pickleball, being described as the fastest growing sport in the country.

by: RAY HUGHEY - Pickleball fan Jean Metzger stretches to make a return.And what is pickleball?

“It is a combination of three games – badminton, ping pong and tennis – with its own set of rules,” explains devotee Jean Metzger of Canby.

It’s played using a tennis net on a 20x44-foot badminton court, batting a plastic Wiffle-type ball back and forth with hard-surface paddles. The paddles are bigger than ping pong paddles and smaller than a tennis racquet.

Metzger and fellow pickleball aficionados play early Saturdays (about 8:30-10:30 a.m.) at the gym to the First Baptist Church on North Maple Street.

“It’s just kind of a group of us that got together,” Metzger said. “We all learned it someplace else.”

She and husband, Clay Metzger, learned the game in Yuma, Ariz. Another couple discovered the game in Yuma.

This is their third year playing pickleball in Canby, Metzger said.

The ranks of the pickleball faithful that took to the courts Saturday, March 29, included Metzger and her husband, Clay. They’re from Canby.

So are Peg and Dale Rohrscheib, who often are joined by their daughter, Angela Cordry, who troops in from Hillsboro.

Other pickleball regulars include Dan Collins who comes over from Oregon City and Theresa Felix, who lives in Sacramento, but plays pickleball with them whenever she is in Oregon.

The game is especially popular with the older generation, Metzger said. “They don’t have to run quite so far or quite so fast.”

The group’s members range in age from 40 to 80, Metzger said. Her husband is nearly 80 and she’s not far behind, she said.

“We generally play doubles, but you can play singles,” she said. “But then you have to do all the running yourself.”

Players serve underhand to the diagonally opposite court. The receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it. And the first time, so does the team they return it to. After that, they can hit the ball in the air.

Except in the nonvolley zone or “kitchen,” a seven-foot zone on each side of the net. If the ball hits and bounces there, then you can go in after it.

The game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle by three dads trying to occupy their summer-bored kids.

Take your pick as to how the game got its name. A favorite but fanciful version says the name came from Pickles, the family dog who ran off with errant balls. But actually, the name comes from sport of rowing, where a boat with a patched together crew is called a “pickle boat.” That name seemed fitting for a crazy-quilt game patched together from other sports.

Today, the U.S.A. Pickleball Association estimates more than 100,000 participants are playing pickleball at more than 2,000 facilities across the nation.

“It is still catching on in Oregon,” Metzger said. “It’s huge in Arizona and Florida. Bend has a huge number of players for the short time they’ve been playing.”

For more information about playing pickle ball in Canby, call Metzger at RAY HUGHEY - From left, Theresa Felix, Dan Collins, Peg Rohrscheib and Clay Metzger battle it out on the pickleball court.

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