After founding leagues for wiffleball and kickball, the women of Bluff Park, Alabama, have taken notice of a unanimous vote to start up a pickleball league as well.
Bluff Park Women’s Rec League
In line with the expansion, the women have announced they have renamed the league from the Bluff Park Women’s Wiffleball League to the Bluff Park Women’s Rec League.
The Wiffleball League, originally founded in 2019 by Sherrie Roberts, has experienced substantial growth. Starting with 75 women, the group now comprises approximately 200 members, with more on waiting lists.
Roberts, also executive director, expressed astonishment at the group’s expansion, stating, “I’m not one to do things on a small scale.” She emphasized her inclination towards ambitious undertakings, noting the continuous growth.
A Unanimous Vote
The decision to expand into pickleball was announced in the spring by Roberts and the group board, and the inaugural season officially commenced on September 19.
Tammy Prell, the pickleball commissioner, proposed this expansion after she and Roberts began learning the sport earlier in the year.
Prell stated, “It was a unanimous vote to give it a try. We just want to expand our offerings.” The group conducted an informal community survey, receiving a highly positive response. Prell affirmed, “We knew it was going to be successful because we had so much interest.”
Initially, 150 women put their names down, but due to the limited availability of pickleball courts, the group decided to limit participation to 64 women for the first season.
Shades Crest Baptist Church generously offered to use its two indoor pickleball courts in its gym. The plan includes open play on Tuesday and Thursday nights, as well as competitive play from 1 to 7 p.m. on Sundays, with three two-hour sessions for different groups of women.
Matches consist of two vs. two pairs, randomly selected by a computer. Prell emphasized that women are never paired with the same partner twice, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to meet and play with all members of the league.
This approach aligns seamlessly with the original purpose of the wiffleball league, which aimed to foster connections among women in the community through recreational activities.
“Everybody’s Having A Great Time”
Prell noted, “Everybody’s having a great time.” Roberts added that the women are eager to acquaint themselves with more of their neighbors.
She shared, “I’ve had women tell me it’s changed their life — how lonely they were. They’ve been able to make new friends and develop close friends.”
The wiffleball league was forced to postpone play in August when a significant storm struck Bluff Park, causing extensive damage.
The women rallied together, providing assistance to one another and their neighbors. Some took up chainsaws and clippers to clear debris, while others delivered supplies to workers engaged in cleanup efforts.
Pickleball 101 Training
The pickleball league is scheduled to run through November, and the kickball league is set to enter its second season.
The latter, which featured eight teams and 96 women, ran from January through March earlier this year. The wiffleball league recently concluded its fifth season with 150 women distributed across 10 teams.
Among the 64 women participating in pickleball, roughly half were also part of either the wiffleball or kickball league. Additionally, around 80% of pickleball players are beginners.
Stan Brown of the Magic City Pickleball Club led four days of Pickleball 101 training to help them get underway.
Aiming To Raise Funds
The age range of participants in the pickleball league has been expanded. While the wiffleball and kickball leagues primarily included individuals in their early 20s to mid-50s, the pickleball league encompasses participants from their early 30s to late 70s, according to Prell.
Although there is some discussion about a potential spring pickleball league or the introduction of a fourth sport, no final decisions have been reached, as stated by Roberts and Prell.
The nonprofit league also aims to raise funds to facilitate greater accessibility for young girls to participate in youth sports.
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