Relishing the chance: Steamboat middle school students learn to play pickleball
Frank Boice, an eighth grader at Steamboat Middle School, had heard of pickleball before because his grandparents had played. On Wednesday, he learned to play from Marcy Pummill, pickleball coach at Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center, alongside his classmates in physical education class.
The Steamboat Springs Pickleball Association raised money through dues and the tournament they ran earlier in the year to donate new balls, paddles and nets to local schools. The program is starting with the Steamboat Springs School District but hopes to expand it across the valley over time.
“In my heart, I’d love to see everyone playing pickleball,” Pummill said. “But also, I’d love to see Colorado be represented in some of these places with these (junior) tournaments. I’m hoping that one of these days it’ll be a college sport, in the Olympics. So if that’s our end goal, then we have to start with the little kids, getting them interested and excited.”
Pummill and her husband, Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center Head Pickleball Pro Sean Pummill, spent Wednesday and Thursday at the school, taking over physical education classes and teaching sixth, seventh and eight graders how to play the game.
Chris Adams, one of the physical education teachers at Steamboat Middle School, was happy to welcome the Pummills.
“We want them to enjoy it as a recreational game and sport,” Adams said. “So, they can have fun with their friends or their family and go to the pickleball center and rent a court. When the weather’s not good, what a great place to do a family activity together.”
The students were high energy and receptive to the new racket game.
“It’s kind of like big ping pong,” Boice said.
Nolan Heydon was one of a small handful of eighth graders who were already familiar with the game. He’s played a few times with family and friends. He was happy to be learning more about the game, so he could play better with his family next time around.
Brooke Bunker had never played before and enjoyed the team dynamic and competitive nature of the game. Bunker is familiar with tennis, which is to some, surprisingly different from pickleball.
Unlike Heydon, Bunker doesn’t see herself continuing the sport.
“It’s for people with knee replacements,” she said.
Stella Crofts remembers playing pickleball in past years in class, but even if she hadn’t, she thinks she’d be able to catch on quickly.
“It’s pretty easy to pick up,” she said. “It’s a really fun game. It’s pretty easy to learn.”
She said keeping her feet out of the kitchen, where hitting a ball out of the air isn’t allowed.
“Sometimes you just want to hit it,” she said. “And you can’t really see where you’re going.”
Pummilll hopes that some of the students will take their new skills and interest into a junior league scheduled in January.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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