LOCUST GROVE - Pickleball is gaining popularity as a sport amongst adults due to its fun and lightweight gaming style.

But bringing it to schools opens the door for more people, young and old, to get involved in a sport that could be a gateway to many other sports. But that's just the effect that pickleball should have on those who want to play it.

Enter Mike Gumbinger. Gumbinger has taken time out to teach the sport around the high school level and reveals that not many kids are playing racket-based sports. Those racket-based sports include tennis, ping pong, badminton, and even racquetball but pickleball blends those lines.

It blends in such a way that the fun sport of pickleball, that doesn't require running could lead up to other racket-based sports.

Pickleball started in 1965 by three adults who didn't have rackets for badminton but improvised. The improvised sport became pickleball and affectionately named after their dog Pickles who chased the ball when they missed. 

"It is a smaller version of tennis using rackets and a whiffle ball," Gumbinger said. "If you have ever played tennis, ping pong, badminton or racquetball then you will love this game. Baby Boomers have made this extremely popular since it requires less running, but the youth of America is catching on."

The game right now has been taught at two county schools and Gumbinger says the kids love the game.

"It is an easy game to pick up and anyone can play," Gumbinger said enthusiastically. "It gives the students in Henry County a fun game they can play with just a few friends especially since most do not play racket sports. The high school students picked the game up quickly and played great. They even had a tournament to decide winners."

The schools offering the game of pickleball is not something that just came up easily. Instead, it came from the Health and Physical Education Professional Learning Specialist Nita Gilbert.

Gilbert has been behind the scenes actively working to get schools to offer a unit on pickleball and the county has taught many physical education teachers the game of pickleball during Professional Learning days.

It's not just there though that pickleball is being taught or seen. Henry County Parks and Recreation also offer pickleball in their gyms and, according to Gumbinger, have plans to build more pickleball courts throughout the county.

Simply put, pickleball is fun and adults and children will love the sport behind it.

"This sport not only has opportunities for the adults of Henry County but is becoming extremely popular with the younger youth that want to be active and have fun," Gumbinger said.

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Sports Editor

Graduated from South Carolina State University in 2015. Been with the Henry Herald and Clayton News in two capacities as a sports journalist and interim sports editor.

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