Get in the Game

Pickleball has become a popular sport on the island.


Ed Kallas has helped popularize pickleball in Alameda.

Chris Duffey

Pickleball has hit Alameda, with Lincoln Park now sporting courts. Ed Kallas, recreational services specialist at the Alameda Mastick Senior Center, has helped popularize this wildly popular badminton-tennis-table tennis hybrid experiencing a universal resurgence. It’s a user-friendly game with benefits from playing. And it’s not just for kids or the senior set anymore.


What is pickleball?

The best way to describe it is to say it is a fast-growing sport similar to tennis and Ping-Pong. Wooden paddles, bigger than Ping-Pong paddles but smaller than tennis racquets, are used, and the ball used is plastic with holes in it, aka a whiffle ball. What makes the game less intense than tennis are the tools, the shortened length of a tennis court, and the slightly lower nets. Like tennis, pickleball is played as doubles or singles, though it is mostly played as doubles. From the perspective of a senior citizen, it is a lot easier on the body but doesn’t sacrifice the competitive spirit or fun of tennis. It’s a terrific transition from tennis and a game that has caught fire all over the world.


Is it meant just for seniors?

The game was originally designed for children but now is most popular among, but certainly not limited to, seniors. All ages can—and do—enjoy pickleball. I’d like to debunk the notion that the game is easy, or only for blue-haired folks who don’t move fast. Pickleball can be as challenging or as easy as its players want it to be. It requires strategy and is a deceivingly good workout. Most everyone works up a sweat without flaring up repetitive-stress injuries. That said, one can still smash or lob balls, do drop shots, or just rally. It has become the craze all over the country for a reason: It is a really good time and is a great social and physically manageable sport. There are regional tournaments all over the United States and in other countries, which is evidence of its mass appeal. You can check out some videos of the matches online to see the game in play, or you can see it being played live here, in Alameda.


When and where is it played in Alameda?

We recently got the Lincoln Park tennis court dedicated to become an official pickleball court. There are free pick-up games on Wednesdays at noon and Saturdays at 10 a.m. On Wednesday evenings, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., we have a paid program run through ARPD. The classes are $18 for a six-week session. Loaner paddles and balls are available, and everyone is welcome to give it a try. Right now, there are four courts available in Alameda at Lincoln Park, and we have plans to significantly improve the courts by resurfacing them and getting new nets. I’ve very excited about the future of pickleball in Alameda. We have already hosted a USA Pickleball basic training workshop and look forward to expanding on that and hosting participation-based tournaments that focus on fun. Additionally, we continue to research other ways to develop the Lincoln Park courts. There are successful programs and very nice courts in Berkeley, San Jose, and Concord, which are all great models for us.


How did you find yourself teaching the game?

It was by research and happenstance that I got into pickleball. After moving here from Maryland three years ago, I was thrilled to take on the job at the Mastick Center and step up the recreational services. As I was researching programs, I discovered pickleball and became very excited at the thought of bringing it to Alameda. I sold the idea to my boss and am really pleased with the response we’ve gotten. I believe it has added a richness to our program. It has been proven repeatedly that the more social and active people are, the greater their happiness-and-health quota. I never want to stop helping or coming up with ways for people to stay dynamic and engaged in life. The benefits to keeping active are endless, and I think pickleball is one of the ways to stay in the game.


Why is it called pickleball?

A man by the name Joel Pritchard from Bainbridge Island in Washington State created the game for his children in 1965. While playing the game, the family dog, Pickles, would chase the ball and run with it. It became Pickles’ ball, which then became pickleball, so the story goes. It’s a quirky name for an awesome game.


Published online on Nov. 7, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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