With her visor on, Debbie Head runs around the field, filling the Victoria West High School gym with the squeak of her tennis shoes.
Her teammate, Leona Cowper, of Goliad, works in sync with her as the two competed in women’s doubles during a pickleball match on the third and final day of the TAAF winter games in Victoria.
The two started playing together last fall and it was their first time competing in pickleball, but Cowper said she competed in tennis at College Station in 2018.
For Head, the most appealing thing about pickleball is its shorter lane size, but the smaller lane also allows for faster action, Head said.
Cowper said she is more likely to play tennis than pickleball, but also agrees with Head that pickleball is in a way more fun because of the action.
There’s a lot of movement up and down, unlike tennis which has more baseline strokes, Cowper said.
Mike Hoxie, president of Pickleball is Great, said he hosts tournaments across the country. Last year, his company had 65 tournaments in 11 states with more than 10,000 players.
The City of Victoria hired Pickleball is Great to manage the pickleball event for the winter games.
It went really well, we had the TAAF people to welcome us to the games and it all went very smoothly, Hoxie said. This year, just over 70 players came for pickleball, and only two of them are out of state.
Pickleball began in 1965 and was designed as a backyard sport, Hoxie said. With elements of badminton, table tennis and regular tennis, the game resembles mini tennis or oversized ping pong. The game is played with a wiffle ball and an oversized paddle with a net positioned at the waist.
It feels very much like you’re playing ping pong, but then standing on the table, Hoxie said. The best part is it’s great for all ages and all experience levels.
The game has really grown in popularity over the past five years, Hoxie said. It has grown so large that there are now two separate professional leagues, such as the Seniors Association and the parent organization of American Pickleball, Hoxie said.
The City of Victoria is growing in their support for pickleball, Hoxie said. If interested, contact the Parks and Recreation Department, they are working on summer and spring programming so people can continue to discover how much fun it is.
Janelle Williams came from Fulshear to enter the competitions for the first time.
I was a tennis player and it’s just a little easier to invest in playing time, Williams said. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a smaller course and it’s a little easier I think to play coed, all ages can play and it’s fun.
Duy Vu is the photo editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach him at 361-574-1204.
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