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NR Pickleball Association hopes to advance sport locally

This year's New Richmond Fun Fest featured the inaugural pickleball tournament at Mary Park. The tournament was organized by Randy and Kathy Stanke, who recently formed the New Richmond Pickleball Association. Pictured playing in Saturday's tournament are (from left) Jean Kelley, Marty Engel, Dave Thompson and Jan Derrick. For more information on the NRPA, email NRPickleball@yahoo.com. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
The New Richmond Pickleball Association held a tournament at the New Richmond Area Centre on Friday, July 13, as part of its two-day tournament event during Fun Fest. Pictured (from left) are: Jan Derrick, Pat Abair, Koi Kelley, Jean Kelley, Cathy Call, Rand Stanke, Jan Engel, Sue Newhouse, Chuck Hutchings, Linda Thompson, Dan Covey and Dave Thompson. Submitted photo2 / 2

With other communities in the area already home to their own pickleball associations, and as the sport continues to grow in popularity across the country, Randy and Kathy Stanke figured it was time to start an association in New Richmond.

"There is a national association and area communities such as Hudson, River Falls, and Stillwater and hundreds of communities throughout Wisconsin and the United States have active and growing pickleball associations," said Randy Stanke. "Such associations promote and advocate pickleball by providing playing sites, regular dates and times for play, as well as lessons and tournaments. With the growing interest in pickleball, we thought it was best to form an association as well."

According to Stanke, pickleball can be played at all ages and can involve multiple skill levels. It is often taught as part of gym classes in schools, which means it isn't limited to or played exclusively by older, retired persons as many think.

"In fact, younger players often compete at a high level in singles as well as very fast, very competitive, doubles play. Pickleball is played on a smaller court than tennis, however, so it is often easier for persons who are older and who maybe don't have the mobility they once had to continue in a racquet and/or paddle sport they always enjoyed," Stanke said. "I have heard it said that if you throw ping pong, badminton and tennis in a blender, you would get pickleball. There are definitely some similarities between these three other sports, but it is unique."

The sport is most often played as doubles, with points only being scored by serving — which is done underhanded below the waist. Both partners serve, except when the game begins, and usually the first to 11 wins. The ball can only bounce once before it must be returned and can be hit in the air without bouncing after it is served and returned and only if the returner is not in the "non-volley zone" or "kitchen," Stanke said.

"It is easy to join. We have a registration form and dues are only $5 annually," Stanke said. "If you want to learn we will teach you how to play. Just show up. We are a fun and friendly group!"

The association currently has 25 members, with a total of 40 active players on the association's email list. Not only did the association get its start this summer, but it also held its first tournament during this year's Fun Fest.

"Fun Fest is a great community event and we wanted pickleball to be a part of it. We had 20 in the first tournament over two days with a variety of 'round robin, random partner' tournaments formats. All had a great time," Stanke said.

In order to be ready for the Fun Fest tournament, the association had to select officers, draft and adopt bylaws and file the proper documents with the state in a short amount of time. Winners of the association's Friday, July 13, tournament during Fun Fest were Dave Thompson and Jan Derrick. The men's doubles winner was Dan Covey, while Cathy Call won the women's doubles tournament.

Currently, those interested in playing pickleball in New Richmond have to play at the New Richmond Area Centre on Monday and Wednesday mornings, at Starr Elementary on Tuesday and Thursday nights through Community Education or hope the middle school courts are free.

"We are hoping to add at least two permanent courts at Mary Park, where we had temporary courts set up for the Fun Fest tournament," Stanke said. "The City of New Richmond and the Director of Public Works Jeremiah Wendt were especially helpful with our recent 'Pickleball in the Park' Tournament during Fun Fest."

For more information on the association, email the association at nrpickleball@yahoo.com.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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