‘Ping pong on steroids’: Local kids get a chance to learn pickleball
After five and a half days at a pickleball clinic, two dozen kids are ready to take on the world.
Jerry Northwood of the Prescott Pickleball Association and other association volunteers worked with boys and girls ages 8-15 last week, ending with a doubles tournament and graduation ceremony on June 15 along with their families.
This is the association’s third year offering the youth clinic, which was held at the City of Prescott pickleball courts across from Pioneer Park.
Most players arrived day-one of the free clinic June 10 with little to no experience, but were focused and ready to learn a new sport during their summer break from school.
“This was without a doubt the fastest learning group we’ve had so far,” Northwood said of this year’s student players. “They all were picking up the game very quickly. We were impressed.”
The youngest, a 7-year-old player who was allowed to play because her older siblings were in the clinic, “held her own” all week, he added.
Association leaders have focused on teaching more youth about the game so they can get more play time at public courts, where adults often fill up the courts. That was one of the main reasons the association continues to offer the clinic.
“As we get more youth involved in the sport, we have more kids beating adults,” Northwood said.
Charlotte Bond, 14, for example, earned a top clinic stat of 20 straight serves without missing. She’s a “gifted athlete,” Northwood said, and it was her first time playing pickleball at the clinic.
Other newcomers enjoyed the competition of the pickleball clinic.
Jackson Pachel, 12, and his 10-year-old brother heard about the clinic from a friend. Both boys play basketball and Jackson also does cross-country.
“It’s really fun; it’s like ping pong on steroids,” Jackson said.
His favorite part of the clinic were strategies in returning the serve in a doubles game particularly. “When I see one person come up to the net, I hit the ball to the back corner,” Jackson said.
Claire Long, 11, plays volleyball and soccer and is a first-time pickleball player, too. A friend asked if she wanted to go to the clinic with her and Claire is glad she said yes.
“It’s very fun and exciting and very competitive. I like the teamwork and the movement,” Claire said.
Volunteer coaches for the week who worked with the kids included Ron Gioia, Malia Pomee, Mary Trost, Bob Atherton, Ben Sialega and others.
During the week, the coaches evaluated the kids’ progress and, along with the outcome of the doubles tournament, awarded certificates to the top three doubles partners as follows:
Gold Medal to the team of Jack Ohlson and Jackson Pachel; Silver Medal to the team of Charlotte Bond and Alex Woods; and the Bronze Medal to the team of Clare Long and Johney McFarland. An Honorable Mention for being top players went to Arwinn Heartisan and Michael Roberts.
Also the coaches gave a special award, in honor of an outstanding former youth graduate, the Owen Thomas Award (the smallest participant with the largest heart, Northwood explained): Jude Ohlson (known as Bob during the clinic).
In addition Owen gave a pickleball exhibition during the graduation ceremony in which he took on four players from the clinic, and won 5-0 (a preset score).