Game On! Seven Feathers Gambling on Pickleball Popularity
What do you do with bored kids during summer break while on an island? Swipe up some ping pong paddles, a plastic wiffle ball, hit the tennis court and invent one of the hottest growing racket sports in the nation today—Pickleball!
It was in 1965, on Bainbridge Island, that Congressman Joel Pritchard and vacationing neighbors, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum came up with the game that was born of boredom. But soon the kids were pushed courtside so the grownups could play and when summer ended, McCallum, who’d fashioned the first pickleball paddle prototype in his garage while on the island, took it back to his hometown streets of Seattle.
Neighbor to neighbor the sport grew; from putting in a backyard court for everybody to play on to taking it on the road for Pritchard’s fundraisers and political events as he ran for reelection.
A courtship (pardon the pun) between badminton, tennis and ping pong, pickleball has nearly three million players now taking to the court in the U.S. alone. It’s spread over the border to Canada and traveled the seas to Europe, and now China, even catching the ears of the International Olympic Committee.
The Umpqua Valley Tennis Center and Seven Feathers Casino Resort have teamed up for the first annual championship tournament to be held in Roseburg February 8 – 10. Nearly 200 players from around the country will compete in several categories. Seven Feathers Entertainment Manager, Harold Phillips, is excited to see where the new partnership will lead.
“We really want this to be a tournament that puts the competition on the map here in the southern Oregon region,” explains Phillips. “Hopefully it creates two things; an economical impact for the area and tourist appeal.”
Former San Francisco 49ers player, Don Teague from Grants Pass, took up the sport almost three years ago and is now playing competitively.
“It’s satisfied that hunger I have in my 50’s to still want to compete,” Teague shares. “I’m a relatively big guy who’s always had pretty good hands and feet and the sport plays well for that.”
Teague will partner with USAPA Ambassador and pickleball instructor, Dave Johnson, from Southern Oregon Pickleball Association (SOPA), in the men’s doubles at the tournament.
“I think the Umpqua tournament is special due to the fact that Seven Feathers has gotten involved and put up prize money,” says Teague. “I believe statistics say it’s the fastest growing sport in America and by professionalizing it top players can make a living competing at championships like this one.”
And it’s growing exponentially in the senior age group. Less impact and running may be some key reasons, Teague believes.
“But don’t mistake that for not being aerobic,” he adds. “I think there are a lot of moves that are just better on the joints, and a lot of requirement for good hand and eye coordination. I’ve been able to pick up the game relatively quickly for the amount of time that I’ve been playing and I’ve been able to progress nicely. I’m probably not the kind of guy that’s going to sit around doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku as I get older. Pickleball is my own sort of physical fitness Sudoku for me. It keeps the mind sharp and the body active.”
“We’re sort of testing the waters and excited to see how participation turns out,” says Phillips on the Casino’s affiliation. “I’m sure, for our player guests, it would be a nice addition to have courts added to our RV resort.”
Umpqua Seven Feathers Pickleball Tournament
February 8 – 10
Umpqua Valley Tennis Center, 1200 NW Stewart Parkway, Roseburg