Pickleball Takes Off In Boulder County

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By some estimates, more than 35 million people play pickleball. And a lot of them live in Boulder County.

 

Pickleball, created in the mid-1960s, is part tennis, part ping-pong, part badminton. It’s played on a mini tennis court between either two or four players (singles or doubles). The game is easy to learn and play, and there are plenty of free outdoor courts and inexpensive spots for games all over the county.

 

Pickleball is relatively easy on the body, which has fueled interest in the game from Baby Boomers seeking fitness and fun. But it also appeals to younger generations, too.

 

“A lot of people seem to think this is a sport for older people, and it is a good way for older folks to get some fun exercise,” said Charlie Brennan, a 68-year-old player from Lafayette. “But I increasingly see more and more 40-somethings, 30-somethings and younger out there. I recently found myself playing with a high school kid as my partner.”

 

Because the game is easygoing, it’s common for competing players to become friends beyond the court.

 

“Each game is like a community event,” said Boulder restauranteur Jay Elowsky. “When you play, you are mixed and matched with other players. Everyone quickly comes together. It’s a great way to meet new friends.”

 

From recreation centers to high-end indoor facilities, Boulder has embraced the game. Whether you’re an experienced player or you’re just curious about this fast-growing sport, here are some of the best spots in Boulder County to play (or learn how).

 

Courtesy of Belinda Dettman

 

Boulder Pickleball

 
3550 Frontier Ave., Suite C, Boulder; boulderpickleball.com

 

Launched in May 2023, Boulder Pickleball was the town’s first indoor facility. It offers five spacious courts with super high ceilings and PickleRoll outdoor surface courts, which tend to be easy on the body and are quieter than standard concrete courts. The space also features C&D championship nets, a large reception and viewing area, and a classroom for lessons and camps with video review, a whiteboard and more. Boulder Pickleball also has giant garage doors for letting in fresh air.

 

Courtesy of Boulder Pickleball

 
“Pickleball has really taken off in Boulder over the past few years,’’ said co-owner and head coach Scott Fliegelman, who opened the 19,000-square-foot facility with his wife Kari. “The community has jumped at the chance to enjoy year-round pickleball, without concern for the weather, and nearly 3,000 members have joined in the seven months since the grand opening.”
 

3rd Shot Pickleball

 
20 S Bowen St, Longmont; 3rdshotpickleball.com
 
3rd Shot Pickleball is a spacious new indoor facility that opened in central Longmont in November 2023. Sign up for leagues, lessons and drill classes, or simply reserve a court and start playing. If you’re looking to meet new people, consider stopping by during drop-in play hours. The center has plenty of courts.
 
“Our facility rocks because we have top-quality courts, excellent sound control, great training programs and a CHUBurger food truck on site,” said general manager Robert Leonard. “There is also a bar and lounge.”
 

Courtesy of 3rd Shot Pickleball

 
If you get really into the game, you can also sign up for a membership, which gives you discounts on court fees, leagues, lessons, gear in the pro shop and drop-in play, as well as early access to court reservations.
 

North Boulder Recreation Center

 
3170 Broadway, Boulder; bouldercolorado.gov/locations/north-boulder-recreation-center
 
The North Boulder Rec Center has seven hard courts—four outdoors and three indoors. If you’re new to the game or just want to level-up your skills, you can sign up for beginner or intermediate classes taught by experienced instructors. Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department also offers a variety of pickleball leagues, organized by skill level.
 

Boulder Jewish Community Center

 
6007 Oreg Ave., Boulder; boulderjcc.org
 
Make your way out to east Boulder to check out the Boulder Jewish Community Center, or JCC for short, which has three indoor courts inside its spacious gymnasium. You can sign up for lessons and clinics, or play in a fun, casual environment during open-play hours.
 

Courtesy of iStock

 

Tips for Getting Started, According to a Pickleball Pro

 
Though it’s easy to learn and fun to play, pickleball has unique rules and an endless number of strategies to succeed. It’s best to understand some of this before you play, so consider watching a YouTube tutorial or taking a lesson to help learn the ropes. (Don’t worry, though, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.)
 
Above all else, however, just relax, says Robert Leonard, general manager of 3rd Shot Pickleball in Longmont. After all, it’s just pickleball.
 
“Less is more,” he said. “And breathe every time you hit the ball.”
 
Always watch the ball and be aware of what direction your paddle is facing, he adds.
 
Tom Nguyen, a certified pickleball and tennis pro who teaches in Boulder, also suggests beginners focus on learning to hit consistent “dinks” in an area of the court near the net called “the kitchen.”
 
Dinking is an important shot if you want to advance your game, he says, and with just 14 feet separating your kitchen line to your opponent’s kitchen line, the goal is to force a pop-up ball from your opponent for a satisfying smash volley. To improve your drinks, he recommends working on:
 

  • Stance: Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your weight slightly forward, on the balls of your toes.
  • Paddle: Keep your paddle in a ready position in front of your body and use a soft grip.
  • Swing contact: Using a compact backswing, the proper motion involves lifting the paddle by your shoulders, making contact with the ball in front of your body and keeping the paddle face square through contact.
  • Focus: Use your eye movement to track the ball and keep your head still. This will keep your body in balance and result in more consistent dinking.
  • Practice: With a partner, see how many consecutive dinks you can make in the kitchen.

 
 

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