Pickle players: Senior Games gold medalist conducts local clinic
WORTHINGTON — For Randy Hall, Pickleball provided an opportunity to stay physically active when his joints could no longer handle the rigors of more intense physical activities.
“I’ve been playing Pickleball for eight years,” he said, “when I gave up racquetball and running because of my knees going south.”
But Hall is no casual player. The retired special education teacher from Willmar was for a short time ranked No. 1 in the nation in tournament points and is currently listed as No. 9. He’s director of the Minnesota Senior Games and was the 2012 Minnesota Senior Games Medalist in Pickleball.
On Tuesday, Hall conducted a clinic at Worthington’s Center for Active Living, sharing both his love for the game and his expertise.
Pickleball is a game that combines aspects of pingpong, badminton and tennis. It is played on a badminton-sized court with a 34-inch-high net. Players use wood or composite paddles to hit a perforated plastic baseball, similar to a whiffle ball.
“Even though it was developed about 40 years ago, in the 1960s, Pickleball is really becoming popular now,” Hall explained. “People of an older generation feel the game is more suited for them. You don’t have to run as far, and it’s a simplistic game as far as the rules, but there’s also a skill level that builds up.”
About a dozen local Pickleball players of all skill levels participated in Tuesday’s clinic.
“This is going to be your only rest time, so rest up,” cautioned Hall as he introduced himself to the local players. “We’re going to spend about the next hour and a half to two hours learning the correct way to play the game or fine-tuning things.”
When she first took up Pickleball last year, Sharon Johansen of Worthington admits she had trouble with her serve. But with some diligent practice, she finally got that part of the game down and was eager to learn more skills and strategies on Tuesday.
“Now it’s hard not to play every day,” said Johansen, who said she came to the clinic to “see what I’m doing wrong.”
For Johansen, Pickleball is both about getting exercise and socializing.
“I’m not a competitive person. We always have a good time,” she said. “We scream and we laugh. When we get done, we don’t even remember if we won or not.”
Johansen and her fellow Pickleball enthusiasts were put through their paces right from the start with a series of drills that helped Hall assess their strengths and weaknesses.
“My clinic is based on the soft game,” he said, “because it’s not a hard-hitting, bang-bang game like racquetball. … Once you get that foundation of skills, you can build on that foundation.”
One of Hall’s emphases was to get the players up toward the net, where they have a better chance of winning the rally.
“You should always want to try to play the game the way you’re supposed to,” he explained. “The better skill level you’re at, the more fun you’re going to have.”
Pickleball is played daily from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Center for Active Living, and there are also Pickleball courts set up at the Worthington Area YMCA.
For more information, contact the Center for Active Living, 376-6457.
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327.