A sport invented by three future congressmen in 1965 is taking over Silicorn Valley Saturday when Fairfield hosts the inaugural Southeast Iowa Regional Pickleball tournament at the Maharishi University of Management Rec Center.
Check-in is at 8 a.m. for participants and the public is encouraged to come out and watch the matches that will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Ron Bessette began playing last year and said that the game came to Fairfield 4-5 years ago when a few locals started playing on their own personal courts.
He added that as the group of players began to grow, they started participating in area tournaments and decided to hold their own for local players last summer.
Bessette decided to organize a larger event and that?s where the inaugural Southeast Iowa Regional Pickleball tournament was created.
Bessette has brought on Steve Stone, the top player in Iowa, to act as Tournament Director for Saturday?s event.
The event lasts all day and will feature primarily mixed and gendered doubles.
Bessette says most players are in their 50s and 60s, but several Iowa high schools use pickleball as a winter time activity during P.E. because you can easily fit six courts in a gymnasium, and it?s very athletic, competitive, and fun.
The sport itself was created by Congressmen Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. It gained popularity when it was featured in an article in The New Yorker, and courts and clubs began popping up around the country. The sport is a hybrid with the court structured like a tennis court, but the net is two inches shorter and it?s the size of a badminton court which is about 1/3 of the size of a tennis court. You use a ball similar to a whiffleball, with paddles close to ping pong. There is also a seven foot forbidden zone on each side of the net that is off limits to players, which creates confrontation at the net with quick reflexes needed, however, the ball moves slower so it?s exciting, yet playable.
The sport has had a resurgence in the last decade, possibly from young players from the past looking for fun ways to stay active as they get older.
Iowa has large cells of players in Des Moines, North Liberty and the Quad Cities. The Davenport Pickleball club alone has more than 500 paid members who play regularly.
Bessette said that locals who want to learn to play have three options that will improve your game, watching tutorials and pro matches on YouTube and grabbing a paddle and actually playing.
Bessette says there is a lot of Pickleball content online and it doesn?t take long to learn the game and ?get good.?
There are three outdoor courts at the Rec Center and two more inside. M.U.M has eight courts at their rec center and they have games every Monday night at 7 p.m.