2018-02-01 / News

City Offers Free Drop-in Pickleball Wednesdays at Elementary School

By Erich T. Doerr


There’s plenty of back-and-forth action during the St. Ignace Recreation Department’s free drop-in pickleball program at the elementary school gymnasium every Wednesday. Here, (from left) the doubles team of Howie Cole and Keith Massaway face off against Jeff Metz and Stan Helms January 24. There’s plenty of back-and-forth action during the St. Ignace Recreation Department’s free drop-in pickleball program at the elementary school gymnasium every Wednesday. Here, (from left) the doubles team of Howie Cole and Keith Massaway face off against Jeff Metz and Stan Helms January 24. The St. Ignace Recreation Department is offering a free drop-in pickleball program inside the St. Ignace Area Schools elementary school gymnasium. Anyone looking for a game can come out and take part from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday, with the city providing the equipment and open courts to play on.

This is the fourth year for the pickleball program. St. Ignace Recreation Director Scott Marshall said that the game of pickleball is affordable and fun for all ages. Since the game focuses more on strategy than athletic ability, pickleball is an all-ages and all-skill-level sport that can be played by everyone.


St. Ignace’s Cheryl Schlehuber is an enthusiastic pickleball player and a member of the USA Pickleball Association. She’s a regular during the city’s drop-in sessions at the St. Ignace Area Schools elementary school gymnasium each Wednesday. St. Ignace’s Cheryl Schlehuber is an enthusiastic pickleball player and a member of the USA Pickleball Association. She’s a regular during the city’s drop-in sessions at the St. Ignace Area Schools elementary school gymnasium each Wednesday. The city program will continue through March 14, with some tournaments planned for the future. Each week it sets up two courts in the school gym. Once the hockey season concludes at the Little Bear East Arena, the ice there will be melted, opening up space for the city to offer pickleball courts there between the arena’s larger events.

“Last year we had more participants than we could handle, since we only have room for two courts,” Mr. Marshall said. “This year, the attendance has been up and down from week to week.”

Recreation department employee Jim Orriss oversaw the January 24 session, noting that this winter has seen about 12 to 16 people each week coming out to play. The Little Bear sessions will likely attract more people once they start. Most weeks are expected to see 20 to 25 people attending, with five courts likely to be available for them to play on. Everyone from senior citizens down to children is allowed to play, although all children must be monitored by an adult.


At left: Stan Helms (left) and Jeff Metz partnered up for a game of pickleball Wednesday, January 24, during the St. Ignace Recreation Department’s dropin program for the all-ages sport in the elementary school gymnasium. The program is free and the city provides the equipment. Mr. Helms and Mr. Metz are pictured while playing against Howie Cole and Keith Massaway (not pictured). At left: Stan Helms (left) and Jeff Metz partnered up for a game of pickleball Wednesday, January 24, during the St. Ignace Recreation Department’s dropin program for the all-ages sport in the elementary school gymnasium. The program is free and the city provides the equipment. Mr. Helms and Mr. Metz are pictured while playing against Howie Cole and Keith Massaway (not pictured). Mr. Marshall said some games get more competitive as they progress. The community response to the game has been positive so far, and the recreation department is looking at its options to add clinics for beginners in the future.

In pickleball, the goal is for an individual player or pair to be the first to score 15 points. Points can only be scored while serving, and all serves must be underhand. The ball must bounce on the court once before being hit back over the net on both the serve and the first return, but after that it can be hit out of the air or after one bounce.

The paddles resemble larger versions of those used in ping-pong, while the ball used is similar to a wiffle ball. The recreation department provides all of the equipment. The low impact nature of pickleball, Mr. Marshall said, is what makes it ideal as all-ages recreation. During long winters, the Wednesday night sessions also offer a good opportunity for local residents to socialize in a recreational environment.

Cheryl Schlehuber is one of St. Ignace’s most enthusiastic pickleball players, and a member of the USA Pickleball Association. She’s been playing the game for five years, first playing it with a cousin in Detroit. Her interest runs deep enough she’s planned some of her vacations around being able to find locations in waterfront communities where she can play pickleball. The game can be played indoors or outdoors.

“I’ve made a ton of friends,” Mrs. Schlehuber said. “This is a very social sport.”

Mrs. Schlehuber likes pickleball because of its requirement for skill, the enjoyment of the competition and exercise it offers, and the opportunities for meeting new people. She said the focus is on ball placement and fitness more than hitting with a lot of power. She also regularly plays the game at Petoskey’s North Central Michigan College and the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex.

Keith Massaway is another local player. He’s been playing pickleball for two years, and took it up because of his enjoyment of similar paddle sports like racquetball.

“This is an excellent program,” Mr. Massaway said. “It’s a lot of fun, easy, and good for all ages.”

Stan Helms, a participant from Evergreen Shores, said he finds pickleball is great way to stay active. He has played the game for five years, his interest evolving from his love of tennis, and noted the game can be played on any hard surface. There is less chasing of the ball than there is in tennis.

“It’s not as rigorous as tennis,” Mr. Helms said. “It’s easy to play [this] if you’ve played ping-pong…The ball is lighter [than tennis], so it doesn’t travel as far.”

The atmosphere at the most recent pickleball session January 24 was relaxed, with music playing in background as players took part in doubles games. St. Ignace’s Sandy Cronan was a newcomer, trying out the game for the first time that night.

“I like it,” Mrs. Cronan said. “This is something new and it’s enjoyable… I can see where this would be a good workout.”

Return to top


Click here for digital edition
2018-02-01 digital edition