There is a “huge, growing interest” in pickleball in Grand Forks, ND, and it is attracting enthusiastic players of all ages and abilities.
Sandy Trautman of Grand Forks, North Dakota, speaks for many of her fellow residents when she talks about her deep affinity for pickleball, stating she is “thoroughly addicted” to the sport.
A Notable Increase
The rapid growth of the “What’s the Score” subgroup within the Grand Cities Pickleball Club has been remarkable. According to board member Diane Olson, the group expanded from 20 to over 70 members over the first course of this year.
In a broader context, the club itself has seen a notable increase in membership, rising from 140 in 2022 to 223. Sandy’s introduction to pickleball came courtesy of Susie Schafer, who convinced Trautman to give it a try. Schafer, too, has become an enthusiast, and the pair hit the court five or six times a week.
Pickleball’s popularity is frequently attributed to its accessibility, enjoyment factor, and universal appeal across ages and skill levels. Trautman also highlights the sense of connection and community that has blossomed within her “What’s the Score” group.
“It’s such a social sport,” she told Pamela Knudson at the Grand Forks Herald. “The connection and community that have developed have been remarkable.”
Older people are attracted to pickleball “because we don’t have kids anymore,” Trautman pointed out. “And when you’re younger, most friendships are formed with the parents of your kids’ friends.”
“Most people get better the more they play. It’s good physical activity. And you don’t have to be in top physical form or condition. You have to have a little mobility. You can be a large person and be amazing.”
“A Fun, Strong Group”
Schafer commented, “We’ve made friends that we’ve never thought we’d meet. We’ve really become a family together. We have such a fun, strong group.”
“It’s also good for one’s mental health,” she said. “It’s something to look forward to.”
The age of members is 35 to 85, and Schafer says, “A 70-year-old is one of our best players.”
Most individuals tend to improve with consistent play, and it provides a valuable form of physical activity that doesn’t demand peak physical condition but rather a degree of mobility.
Schafer underscored the cognitive benefits, noting that the activity enhances blood flow, akin to the effects observed in handball and racquetball.
Younger participants, including college students, have also shown interest, demonstrating a diverse and welcoming community.
“We had a couple of 10- and 12-year-old boys join us, and it didn’t bother them that we’re all older.”
Trautman acknowledged her initial reluctance: “I think I hesitated because it’s harder to put yourself out there as an older person. And I had absolutely no idea what pickleball was.
“But Susie (Schafer) kept talking about going to play, and I should join her, and she finally wore me down. And I’m so grateful for that.”
“By the third time you play, you say, well, this is cool,” she said.
Members of Trautman’s group, known as “What’s the Score,” regularly convene at Optimist Park, which now boasts six courts repurposed from tennis to accommodate pickleball, as per Trautman’s account.
“It’s a well-situated, central spot,” she remarked.
Additional locations within the park district include O’Leary Park, Symington Park, and the Abbott Complex.
Finesse Over Sheer Power
One individual whose perspective shifted after trying pickleball is Greg LaDouceur, a long-time Grand Forks Park Board member and tennis coach. He participated in a special event introduced by Trautman at Optimist Park in August.
LaDouceur described the experience as unexpected and emphasized the need for finesse over sheer power.
“I absolutely loved it,” LaDouceur said. “It’s a whole different game than what I thought it to be. More of a feel, more of a touch: It is not about hitting the ball hard.” LaDouceur also emphasized the importance of identifying suitable outdoor spaces for pickleball.
On that subject, Choice Health and Fitness Center is in the process of incorporating pickleball markings onto six indoor basketball courts, LaDouceur reported.
This new addition will contribute an additional six indoor courts to the existing pickleball facilities in the Grand Forks vicinity.
Grand Forks is in North Dakota, situated along the Minnesota border, opposite its sister city, East Grand Forks. As of 2021, the population was recorded at 58,781. It is approximately 270 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
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