The University of Mississippi has incorporated pickleball into its recreational offerings, converting three tennis courts into eight new pickleball courts situated behind its Turner Center.
A Positive Uptake
Jason Shirkey, associate director of campus recreation, reports positive uptake among students, faculty, and staff: “You’re seeing traffic pick up now, and as we get the word out there and information starts being passed on campus, it will take off, more people will start playing, and it will start getting crowded.
“The athletes are playing; the soccer team plays; some of the baseball guys are playing. It’s a pretty popular sport, even with our athletes on campus.”
Accessibility Across Varying Skill Levels
According to Allison Ford-Wade, interim chair of the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, pickleball’s popularity stems from its accessibility across different skill levels: “It’s fairly easy for people of all skill levels to pick it up. It’s really fun to play.”
She emphasizes its enjoyable nature and highlights its benefits as a moderate workout comparable to a brisk walk.
“Even if you’re replacing going to the movies, this is much better for you. It’s physical activity. It’s enjoyment.”
Worth DuPerier, a professional pickleball player, proposed the introduction of the sport to campus, receiving immediate support from Chancellor Glenn Boyce.
Shirkey said, “I think he sees that it’s an up-and-coming sport, so he wanted to get moving on this,”
Bringing the sport to the university cost around $61,000, with $40,000 contributed by the Chancellor’s Office and $21,000 from the Department of Campus Recreation.
We’ve featured some great articles about how pickleball is increasing its catchment area away from the senior demographic and moving into universities too. Read them here!
A Unifying Activity
Brandon Sukenik, a senior finance major, took the initiative to establish the campus club and currently serves as its president.
He views pickleball as a unifying activity, providing a platform for social interaction and enjoyable competition: “It’s a good way to bring students together, not only to play but also to meet people and have a chance to connect.
“It’s competitive, everybody can play, and it’s just an even sport where everyone’s having fun. It’s not so daunting like other sports, where it’s a lot of physical labor.”
Eme Bryson, a criminal justice major, also highlighted the game’s social dimension and its dual role as a fun pastime and beneficial exercise: “I got into pickleball over the summer and have started to really love it. It’s just really fun to play with friends and is great exercise. It’s a win-win.”
An Official Pickleball Course
Students interested in pickleball can enroll in a class offered by the Department of Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management. While the sport is integrated into EL 120: Intro to Lifetime Leisure Activities, plans are underway to introduce an official pickleball course in the upcoming fall semester.
These introductions align with the university’s commitment to promote physical activity and offer a diverse range of recreational opportunities.
Campus Rec has scheduled a formal inauguration, contingent on the completion of painting the fence around the courts and the installation of new windscreens.
A Doubles League
The University of Mississippi has also launched a doubles league featuring a three-week regular season followed by a single-elimination playoff bracket.
Teams must consist of a minimum of two players, with at least two prepared to participate before the designated game time.
Each team may have a maximum of five players on their roster, and additions can be made until the registration is full through IMLeagues.
Individuals without a team but keen to participate can register as a free agent here.
Placement on the waitlist is an option for those signing up after the registration period has concluded or if the leagues have reached full capacity. The office will then contact them regarding team allocation within a division.
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