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The up and coming sport appeals to different types of people looking for a distraction

It was roughly two years ago that Woodburn's Donna Stone began circulating a clipboard at a meeting in the Metropolis, collecting signatures and contact information. The Senior Estates resident was interested in getting members of the community together for a sport that first caught her attention in Palm Desert, California.

That game was pickleball.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Donna Stone, a resident of Senior Estates, helped bring pickleball to the city of Woodburn.

"I was a bocce player from '05 to maybe 2010," Stone said. "We would see people at the pickleball courts, which were right next to the bocce courts. I would see those people over there laughing and batting that little silly ball around, and I thought, 'Well that looks like fun, they look like they're having a lot of fun.' We were kind of bored with bocce. My husband and I had been playing a long time. So we just walked in there one day. They taught us to play."

It was something new, but not entirely unfamiliar to Stone. Pickleball was first created by Washington residents Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell in 1965 using elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong, according to the HYPERLINK "https://usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/history-of-the-game/" USA Pickleball website. Over the decades, the popularity of the sport grew, and with it the number of casual and professional pickleball players.

When Stone moved to Woodburn in 2013, she played pickleball in various locales including Wilsonville, Silverton and Palm Desert, but was looking to play in her community. It was at that meeting in 2019 when she was collecting names, emails and phone numbers that she began her pitch on the sport of pickleball.

"(It's) easy to learn, really fun, (and) good exercise," Stone said. "And it is all that."

It attracted a wide variety of players: young, middle-age and older. One of the people who signed on, Dave LaDuca, falls into the middle category and is one of the most enthusiastic pickleballers in the community.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Dave LaDuca has been one of the more energetic proponents of pickleball in Woodburn, helping to bring in new players when he gets the opportunity.

You can find LaDuca at the city tennis courts across the parking lot from the aquatic center on Saturday mornings, battling it out with local pickleball players and trying to bring in new players to the game using a method he calls the Four I's.

"It is invite, include, improvise and inspire," LaDuca said, "and we wanted people of any level, of any ability, to have fun with the ball and to feel like they wanted to come back another time. If anybody has played, they realize quickly that there's a lot of cheap shots, and we try to improvise. But it's not the first thing, the first thing is to include people, to invite people to play. And we get to the fun things after we've hit the ball a few times."

And it is fun, especially when you watch a game and quickly realize the trash talk is less about putting your opponent down and instead bringing the best out of them. Besides being fun, it's also a way to work up a sweat.

That's why when LaDuca invited 16-year-old Ivan Tiburcio to try his hand at pickleball, Tiburcio accepted.

"I was running and working out, and I was walking home and (he) called me, and I was like, 'I've got time,' so I decided to come play," Tiburcio said.

The soccer and tennis player uses pickleball as a low-impact exercise to keep his body in good shape for the upcoming sports year. He finds the time to play when he isn't working during the summer and manages to squeeze in runs from time to time as well.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Ivan Tiburcio, 16, took up pickleball as a fun distraction and a way to get in some exercise for the fall and spring sports seasons.

Similarly, 83-year-old Mickey Harrison also uses pickleball as a way to exercise and stay active. It supplements her exercise on days when she isn't doing water aerobics and golf. While she isn't as spry as her younger opponents, Harrison says that she works on other ways to stay competitive on the pickleball court.

"I do more of my backhand, and I stay in the back. I don't run up to the front like the younger ones because I had a problem with my hip," Harrison said. "So I still would like to play pickleball, but I can't get up to the front, like I used to. … That's the spot that has slowed me down. The others, I can fit right in.

"I think that's the good part about pickleball," Harrison said. "You don't have to be perfect."

Woodburn's pickleball players are hoping to have full time, pickleball-only courts in the future and not tennis courts converted with pickleball lines. Stone has been working to try and make that a reality. Until that happens, however, the goal is to get more residents to begin playing the sport that caught Stone's attention back in 2010.

"One of the stress-free things about pickleball is that everybody who comes pretty much brings an extra paddle," LaDuca said. "We always have extra balls to use. People are willing to help you get started. That's very low stress.

"I buy some extra paddles at the thrift store, and they are very inexpensive, and if somebody falls in love with one of my spare paddles, they can have it. So that is a less stressful part, that the equipment is there for anybody who wants to get started and give it a try. Walmart and Big Five and whoever out there has startups, materials and stuff like that and that's helpful," he said.

"We're currently at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and a couple times during the week."


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