When the residents of Oneida, Tennessee, initially took up pickleball, they created outdoor courts by marking lines on the parking lot of a local church.
Lisa Kallevig, a resident, and USA Pickleball member, recalled those early days and the challenges they had to face: “It was a lot of work because the courts were at a slant.
“We had no fences, so the balls literally could roll a few blocks away because we were on a hill. At the end of the play session, we would drive around in our vehicles to pick up the balls.”
Keeping the courts clear of nature’s debris became another hurdle.
“In the fall, we would bring out our (leaf) blowers and blow off the courts because there were too many leaves and acorns. Sometimes it was super windy, and nets would literally blow over because they were the cheap, portable nets.”
Despite these obstacles, pickleball gained popularity in the community of around 3,700 residents, located an hour north of Knoxville near the Kentucky border.
A recent tournament at the local high school garnered significant interest, and people of various ages frequently engage in the game, even though the town has limited court space.
The Pickleball Bug
Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, a high school student, observed the widespread enthusiasm for pickleball in the town: “There’s so many people in our community who have caught the pickleball bug.
“If you drive through the town, you’ll see there’s painted lines in parking lots. There’s a bunch of people who have nets set up in their driveways.”
When Elizabeth saw a notice on USA Pickleball’s Instagram page about a True Court by Pickleball United giveaway, she informed her mother, who applied. Oneida emerged as one of three finalists from over 150 entries, ultimately winning in an online vote by members.
Elizabeth also mentioned “how excited and grateful we are for this, and how our whole community was talking about this.”
“The whole community is buzzing about this court. This is the highlight of our year,” added her mom.
In Love With The Sport
During the pickleball tournament at Elizabeth’s High School, approximately a quarter of the school’s 400 players participated, showcasing the sport’s popularity.
“There was a ton of teams,” said Elizabeth. “The whole high school was down there. Our community has just fallen in love with this sport.”
“Pickleball’s just a sport that everybody loves,” Lisa comments. “It can be young and old. We have elementary (school) students playing it.
“They actually painted some lines out for recess on the playgrounds. It’s also the elderly, too. For a lot of them, it’s the highlight of the week.”
A Line Of People Waiting To Play
However, the local Boys and Girls Club remains the sole location with actual pickleball courts, and Elizabeth says it can be hard to get a game sometimes:
“We have one spot that we can play, one day a week, for about two hours, and that’s it. Those courts, they’re always full during that time period. It’s the middle of the day, as well.”
The Kallevigs are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the True Court kit, which can be installed over any surface:
Lisa said, “We have a very nice city park that is well maintained, but there’s no funds to ever upgrade it.”
“There’s a very old tennis court there that is never used. We are planning to put it right over the tennis court. It’s just wasted space right now.
“There will be a line of people waiting to play. I’m hoping that this court brings the attention of our city council. Although it’s just a start, maybe in the next year or two, they could do some fundraising or something to get more courts there.”
Lisa also envisions the possibility of one day having league play in the town: “We would actually love to,” Kallevig said. “People have asked about it. We just don’t have the space for it.
“We did hold a pickleball tournament as a fundraiser about six months ago at the Boys and Girls Club. We had a lot of teams show up. We drew people from several hours away.”
Lisa also explains that the new court is expected to be used year-round, thanks to the mild winters in their area of Tennessee: “The winters are not bad here, so most of the time, you can play outside throughout the year.
“Those that are dedicated will be out there, no matter what.”
A Great Home
Brady Kellogg, managing director of partnerships at USA Pickleball, expressed his satisfaction for the residents of Oneida and their newfound pickleball court:
“We have been absolutely thrilled to work with Pickleball United and our community in finding a great home for this True Court.”
“It was wonderful to see such an enthusiastic response from our audience on social media as they voted and collectively decided which deserving community should enjoy this pickleball court.
“Our team at USA Pickleball is looking forward to seeing the continued growth of our sport in Oneida, Tennessee!”
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