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Grand Cities Pickleball Club offers exercise, competition and social hour

Since it was started in 2018, the Grand Cities Pickleball Club has grown to have around 100 members, many of whom are seniors.

Grand Cities Pickleball.JPG
Sam Halley (far left), John Kinzler (top right), Tami Halley (far right) and Mark Wright (center) play pickleball on Feb. 24, 2022, at the Hyslop Arena in Grand Forks.
Ingrid Harbo/Grand Forks Herald
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When Susie Shaft first heard of pickleball, she wanted nothing to do with it. The 82-year-old is a lifelong athlete, but the sports she can play have become limited with age and injury. When a friend suggested she try pickleball, she laughed at them.

“I’ve always been very athletic, but I’ve got so many shoulder problems that they said I can’t do any sports,” she said. “So someone said to me ‘try pickleball,’ and I said “well, that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.’”

Now, she describes the sport as a blessing, addictive and the best thing to happen to her.

“There are a lot of older people that can’t do other things like skiing or tennis, but can take this sport and just enjoy it,” said Shaft.

Shaft is the oldest member of the Grand Cities Pickleball Club. Since it was started in 2018, the club has grown to have around 100 members. In the winter, the club plays in Hyslop Arena, and in the summer, meets at O’Leary Park in East Grand Forks, where East Grand Forks Parks and Recreation built eight permanent pickleball courts last June.

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Mark Wright, vice president of the Grand Cities Pickleball Club, says pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States. The game is played on a court and combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Players hit a wiffle ball across a low net using small, lightweight paddles and the game can be played as doubles or singles. The sport is popular among seniors in Grand Forks, but people of all ages come to play.

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In Grand Forks, the Grand Cities Pickleball Club provides nets, balls and paddles for people trying it out for the first time. Regular players bring their own paddles, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $250. An individual membership for the club costs $30 per year and a household membership, for two or more players, costs $50 per year. In the winter, the club also charges players a court fee of $5 per night for members and $7 per day for non-members.

Both Wright and Shaft say the game can be learned quickly, but technique is key to playing well.

“I’d say it's an easy game to learn and a tough game to master,” said Wright.

“The technique in pickleball is important, you don’t just come out and slam the ball,” added Shaft.

Each player decides how competitive they want to be and levels of competitiveness vary even within the Grand Cities Pickleball Club.

“We have people that play for exercise, and we have people that play to be competitive,” said Wright. “If you’re just looking for something social and you want a sport where you can be social and play, this is a good sport.”

John Kinzler, club second vice president, and his wife started playing pickleball about a year ago, and the social aspect of the club is one reason he kept coming back.

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“I’ve lived in Grand Forks my whole life, and I’ve gotten to know tons of people,” said Kinzler. “Not only that, I got to get reacquainted with people I graduated with who I haven’t seen in 30 or 40 years, and here they are playing pickleball.”

Shaft also enjoys the social aspect, but at the end of the day, she’s there to play.

“If you get out there on the court and you’re just laughing and think it’s funny, get off,” she said.

Grand Cities Pickleball meets from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9-11 a.m. on Saturdays at the Hyslop Arena in the winter. More information and memberships for the club are available online at grandcitiespickleball.com .

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Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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