Though it seemed to be a quiet, snow-laden Saturday night outside of the DeWitt Tennis Center, there was a different scene inside: nine courts reverberated with the popping sounds of paddles making contact with pickleballs, background music played in the background, and occasional shouts of dismay or delight filled the air after successful plays.
One of the many clubs offered at Hope, Pickleball Club stands out for several reasons. Rather than a sports team, this group is an athletic club that is open to all levels of ability. It is relatively new to campus, and members come to play from 10pm to 12am every Saturday night. This late start time is due to the busyness of the DeWitt facility, which is also used for practices for Hope’s men’s and women’s tennis teams, as well as tennis lessons for the wider Holland community. First-year student Ava Anderson, who joined the club last semester, commented that “…having a late night time shows real commitment to pickleball if you’re willing to come out.” She highlighted some of the reasons why people might consider joining the club: “…pickleball is a great way to get out on a Saturday night, to exercise, and to meet people–there’s a whole wide range of people here with different athletic abilities, which is pretty unique.”
According to current Pickleball Club President, Nate Jobson (’24), the club was started last year “with the goal of spreading pickleball and fostering an environment where the Hope community is able to come together through the sport.” There are currently around 50 members in the club, though the number of attendees has fluctuated throughout the year, especially after the later start time was introduced.
Nationwide, pickleball has enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years, growing 159% between 2019 and 2022 according to a CNN Business article published last March. Hope students seem to have embraced the trend, with all class levels represented in the club. According to the article, pickleball stands out from similar sports like tennis due to its smaller court size, the frequency of rallies (back and forth sequences), and more social environment.
Club members echoed these sentiments. “I’d say pickleball is a lot more beginner-friendly. It doesn’t take years or even days to master–it takes a few hours and then you can jump right into it,” said club Vice President Weston Taylor (’24), a former tennis player who started playing pickleball with his family two years ago. “Everyone can be involved from the first time they pick up a paddle to years and years in the future.”
Jobson explained the logistics of how open hit sessions work. The meetings are held indoors to “avoid issues with weather and the complications that come with hosting an off campus event.” Players can borrow paddles if they don’t have their own. Members often join the club’s e-board to set up the courts at the beginning of each open hit session– this involves taping the courts to prepare them for play.
Jobson emphasized the welcoming environment of the club and encouraged any interested students to get involved: “We have groups of varying skill levels playing and if anyone has questions about the rules or techniques, everyone is happy to help as best they can.” The club is open to both students and staff, and those curious to learn more can check out @hopecollegepickleballclub on Instagram or email the e-board at email@example.com.