There’s a new sport in Dawson County. After much anticipation, pickleball is officially being offered at Rock Creek Park.
The sport, which draws attention for more reasons than its unusual name, was created in 1965 in Washington State when Congressmen Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum set out to create a new game to play with their restless children.
Since its inception, the sport has slowly gained in popularity, with more than two million people in the United States currently playing the game.
In late February, Rock Creek Park hosted two beginners’ clinics to introduce the sport to the community and give the park staff a chance to learn more about the new program.
“We as a staff fell in love with it,” Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne said. “It’s a great combination of three sports: tennis, ping pong and then you use the scoring like volleyball.”
Pickleball is played on a badminton size court with a paddle twice the size of a ping pong paddle and a ball very similar to a whiffle ball. Like tennis, pickleball can be played as singles or doubles.
Parks and recreation programs surrounding Dawson County - Hall, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Pickens counties - already offered pickleball to community members.
“It’s all around us so now it’s coming here and we’re all excited,” local pickleball enthusiast Celia Otwell said. “This is great for us to have to be able to come and play indoors.”
Otwell has been playing pickleball on the outdoor courts at Big Canoe for three years. She will be the official pickleball ambassador at Rock Creek Park, overseeing the matches and helping players follow the rules.
“It’s good for hand-eye coordination. It’s good for just being alert and keeping us moving,” Otwell said. “I’m 69 and at our age we have to keep moving.”
Pickleball is a game for the whole family but has been most popular with the retired community, a part of the community Payne is excited to engage and serve at the park.
“It engages a facet of the community that doesn’t use the parks as much as we would like,” Payne said. “This is a group of folks that don’t use our facilities other than walking… we wanted to have a sport that they could get engaged at here at the parks that they otherwise wouldn’t be getting or having to go to other parks to do it outside of our county.”
Payne said the sport was easy to pick up, and with it being a small court, it’s a great cardio workout.
Rock Creek Park’s two gymnasiums are set up for six pickleball courts with playtime set aside Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well as Sunday evenings.
The park provides the courts and balls, but they currently have only a few paddles to lend beginners who want to try their hand at pickleball before purchasing their own paddle.
As the program continues to grow in the county, Payne said he would like for the park to host indoor pickleball tournaments.
“It would be a really unique dynamic for us because typically most of our athletics is youth athletics and that’s where moms and dads and grandparents come to watch,” Payne said. “This would be an opportunity where grandkids and moms and dads could come watch their grandparents play pickleball.”
Currently, pickleball is free for anyone to attend and play. All six courts are open to all level of players from 9 t0 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Three courts are open on Sundays. Intermediate and advanced players are welcome from 3 to 6 p.m. All players can play from 6 to 7 p.m., and novice and beginner players only can play from 7 to 9 p.m.
Rock Creek Park is located at 445 Martin Road in Dawsonville.