According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport on the planet, with the U.S., Canada, and Australia leading the trend. We sat down with Brian Cole, Pickleball Coordinator for South Suburban Parks and Recreation, to discuss the new outdoor pickleball facility slated to open at the Lone Tree Recreation Center at the beginning of the summer, and the opportunities for residents to both learn the sport and start playing competitively.
Full disclosure, I have never played pickleball, but I am intrigued. What do I need to know to get started?
Brian: Well, pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It’s played on a court with a net using a lightweight ball, similar to a Wiffle ball. It can be played in singles or doubles. To win, you must be the first to score 11 points and you must win by at least two points. A pickleball court is about a quarter of the size of a tennis court, so it isn’t too physically demanding. It’s a great game for all ages. I like it because the most agile player won’t always be the winner. It’s the person who plays the smarter game who wins.
Tell us about the new pickleball facilities being built in RidgeGate…
Brian: We will have six new outdoor courts at the Lone Tree Rec Center (check out a rendering of the court plan). You can reserve a court online to ensure you have one when you arrive. You can also just show up and see what is available, understanding that everyone has to rotate. You’ll need to bring your own equipment. We will be offering a variety of boot camps, clinics, private lessons, leagues, and three tournaments per year, so keep checking our website for more information.
How long is a typical pickleball game?
Brian: A typical game can last anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. They’re actually talking about changing the rules because that range makes pickleball really hard to broadcast since you have no idea how much time is needed to play a game.
How long have YOU been playing pickleball?
Brian: I started playing about four years ago when the community really started to grow. I loved the intergenerational aspect of the community.
When did you start working for South Suburban Parks & Rec?
Brian: I started working for SSPR as a lifeguard in high school. This organization really aligns with my values. The pickleball program was pretty small before I came on, but we’ve grown it by over 500% — that’s a testament to how much people really love this sport.
It sounds like you grew up in this area. Tell us more about what you do when you aren’t organizing or playing pickleball…
Brian: Yes, I grew up in Centennial. I went to Arapahoe High School. I also love to ski and raft. I love the theater and acting. I was the Improv president in college, and now I do a little bit of film acting…small roles, but it’s fun.
You seem like someone with a thirst for adventure. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
Brian: I’d love to go back to China. I studied Chinese in high school and went there in college to study. I’m not fluent, but I’m conversational.
Very cool! Is pickleball popular in China now?
Brian: Ping pong and badminton are popular in China, but pickleball isn’t yet. It’s only a matter of time though…