MEDFORD, Ore. — Pickleball is the country’s fastest-growing sport. It’s also on the rise here in the Rogue Valley, there’s even a local pickleball association working to grow the sport beyond older members of the community.
“We have a joke, pickleball is where tennis players come to retire,” Southern Oregon Pickleball Association Executive Director, Jack Methot said.
Pickleball has always been a popular sport in the Rogue Valley, but it’s not always had a home.
“We only had courts at Fichtner-Mainwaring park, Holmes park and a few other minor places,” Methot said.
Jack Methot and the Southern Oregon Pickleball Association say that’s changing.
“It didn’t start to happen until mid-year last year, at that time there were rumblings for dedicated courts at Oak Knoll which have come to pass, courts at North Medford High School,” Methot said.
First, what is pickleball? For those who don’t know it’s a mix of badminton, ping pong snd tennis on a smaller court.
“If you have ping pong skills that help tennis skills badminton, soccer, basketball, baseball, golf any previous athletic skills you have will transfer over into your pickleball skills,” SOPA Director of Player Development, David Johnson said.
While it’s extremely popular among older adults, that’s changing.
“I’ve played with anybody from ten years old to 87, and you’d think you step out onto the court with some of these guys and think I’ll slow it down, but they have insane reactions,” Shannae Coker said.
Coker is in her twenties and has been playing for about six months. She’s quickly made her way from the beginner to advance levels.
“It’s really fun it’s been neat to come out and play and I enjoy it and it’s been great to encourage other young people to come out and play as well,” Coker said.
The Southern Oregon Pickleball Association started back in 2017 back then it was just about 50 members all gathered in a library together talking about pickleball. Fast forward to 2020, it’s grown to over 600 members extending from Grants Pass to Ashland all getting together to pickle.
SOPA says now, Pickleball is finding its home in southern Oregon. Even the proposed new aquatic and event center in Medford could have 16 courts for people to come and learn the sport.
“We’ve been able to build our numbers through teaching, and through teaching, you get more bodies and with more bodies, you need more room to play,” Methot said.
With over 2.8 million players in the U.S. and growing since 2017. SOPA is hoping to make pickleball not just the fastest growing sport in the U.S., but in southern Oregon as well.
Pickleball is even in consideration to become an Olympic sport. Here in the Rogue Valley, it’s very easy to just pick up a paddle and start playing. If you’re interested in learning more about pickleball or getting involved you can visit www.sopickle.com, www.roguepickleball.com or playtimescheduler.com.
Devin Gooden graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism.
She has spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Business Management.
When she’s not reporting, Devin practices yoga, reads thriller novels and loudly cheers for her beloved Georgia Bulldawgs.