Pickleball league gaining popularity
LITTLE SWITZERLAND – People in Mitchell County who are looking for a place to play pickleball are in luck.
The Little Switzerland Pickleball League started earlier this year and each Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. pickleball players take their talents to the courts at Switzerland Inn.
The league is open to players of all ages and skill levels and formed after Switzerland Inn Community Organizer Gary Jensen decided to paint special pickleball lines on the Inn’s tennis courts.
Jensen then approached Little Switzerland resident Aaron Pherigo, who helped establish the league and operates its official Facebook page.
The first 30 minutes of each play session is designed for open play and practice as well as catching newcomers up on the rules. After 30 minutes, players are randomly matched with a partner, and the games begin.
The league tracks total wins, and at the end of the season, which will come when the Switzerland Inn closes for the season, the wins leader will be awarded a trophy.
Pherigo said 10-15 people show up on average, but as many as 25 have played in a single evening.
“Turnout has been great,” Pherigo said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Pickleball is a cross between tennis and ping pong. The court is about half the size of a tennis court and players volley a whiffle ball using paddles. At Little Switzerland, matches are always two versus two.
Pherigo said the game is much easier on the body than tennis due to the smaller court but added it still offers plenty of exercise.
“It’s less work and more fun,” he said.
Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff, a pickleball player and Mitchell County Commissioner, said with the popularity of pickleball rising, offering a place to play in Mitchell County is a great asset.
According to the United States of America Pickleball Association, the sport has shown a 650 percent growth in participation over the past six years.
“I think it’s awesome that Little Switzerland is doing this,” Grindstaff said. “I commend Gary [Jensen] for letting this happen. I know how popular the sport is getting and I think having somewhere in Mitchell County to play is awesome.”
Grindstaff said he hopes the consistent success of the Little Switzerland League will cause Bakersville and Spruce Pine to take notice, adding that if the sport shows continued growth in the area, Mitchell County could become a pickleball hub.
“I hope the town of Bakersville and Spruce Pine really catch onto it,” Grindstaff said. “I think we can become a destination for leagues and tournaments. That’s my hope for the county.”