Pickleball getting too popular in Piedmont?

Julie Reichle

All Piedmont Middle School courts were occupied by players on Saturday

Pickleball in Piedmont is growing in popularity with three sites open to players. Currently, courts are available at three locations in Piedmont: Piedmont Middle School and Linda Beach and Hampton parks.

Pickleball is a slightly slower version of tennis or other racket sports, usually played on a court the size used for badminton. The courts at the middle school are designed for pickleball, while tennis courts with extra lines painted on them are used at the parks. Players are not allowed to volley near the net and must let the ball bounce before volleying. The game is very popular with older players, but is open to all ages.

Wesley Chee serves to his wife, Lilly Mar

The schedule as of the start of 2021 is Mondays at PMS, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; Tuesdays at the Linda Beach tennis courts, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Wednesdays at the Hampton tennis courts, 12:30-3 p.m.; Thursdays at Linda Beach, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays at PMS, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. There is no play on Fridays.

Finding hours to play has required negotiations. The park courts are shared with tennis players. The Piedmont Unified School District can’t make the school courts available during school hours. A subcommittee dedicated to pickleball and tennis reported to the City Council in November, 2019, that discussions on expanding hours for pickleball at the middle school are ongoing.

Play is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Volunteers sometimes are present to help “handle the demand and make sure everyone is playing safe,” Piedmont Recreation Director Chelle Putzer said. Recreation Coordinator Steven Chavarria and Recreation Supervisor Jackson Stevens oversee pickleball programming for the Recreation Department.

Two of the younger players on the courts

The subcommittee considered adding it to the Recreation Department reservation system when it was introduced on a trial basis in 2019, but determined that there was not yet a consensus to add it to the system and that many pickleball players prefer the social aspect of the game. Much like pickup basketball courts, players can call “next” by putting their rackets through the fence.

The subcommittee said it could revisit the issue in the future, especially if hours were expanded for court use at the middle school. Now-City Council member Conna McCarthy was a member of the subcommittee. She said that if participation is now robust enough to justify using the city’s reservation system, it might be time to revisit the issue.

“My impression (at the time) was they had a real good ability to share and self-regulate,” McCarthy said.

A player watches the two matches underway

Piedmont resident Laura Pochop said she has not played since the pandemic, but would be in favor of reservations for about 45 minutes.

“I think I would like it if it could be reserved,” she said. “It’s a drag to go and wait around when you want to exercise.”

According to Putzer, during the pandemic, masks are required and only singles play is allowed unless the doubles players are from the same household. PUSD expanded use at Piedmont Middle School during the pandemic, which allowed more people to play. But as some students have returned to campus, that’s no longer possible.

“Pickleball play is a bit different than tennis play in that there is more of a group/community of players who arrive at the courts to play and they rotate through the courts,” Putzer said. “In general, pickleball games are much shorter and faster than tennis so the courts turn over quickly. The pickleballers also designate courts for more beginner players and other courts for more advanced play.”

13 thoughts on “Pickleball getting too popular in Piedmont?

  1. Echoing the fellow pickleball enthusiasts who are against the reservation system. I love playing with those of all levels and getting to meet folks of all ages. The Piedmont pickleball crew adheres to all safety protocols, including mask wearing and distancing.

  2. I would like to agree with all of the sentiments expressed here. One of the by my fellow Pickleball players. One of the great things about our pickleball community is that you don’t have to arrive with a partner and you can play against different people on different days at many levels. The top players have been generous with their time to play with intermediate players like myself, giving us tips and practice which definitely helps improve our game. Going to a reservation system would cut down on the camaraderie, and would be hard for players who don’t have a partner to sign up with.

  3. I agree with all previous comments. I’ve gone to play with a partner and also alone thankful that I can pair with whomever happens to be there that day. I just started playing during Covid and everyone was incredibly welcoming. All social distance and masking rules are being adhered to. Reservation system would ruin the spirit of the game and I’ve rarely had to wait more than 10 minutes.

  4. I am thankful to have pickle ball in our community. I am inspired to see the hard work, resourcefulness and passion of picklers like Rick Schiller and Darlene Vegna (thanks a million!). Our current open play system is welcoming, inclusive, efficient and safe. It lends itself to a fun and enjoyable experience! There is a unique multigenerational dynamic of good players and beginner players, respectfully helping each other improve. It is this aspect that I love.

  5. I will echo what all the REGULAR participants have already said. The beauty of Piedmont is that anyone at anytime there is play, can come to Piedmont and find a partner. The wait times are minimal. There are six games (at PMS) going on simultaneously and it’s fun and easy to watch others while we wait. The other venues that have reservations systems in place are valuable to those wanting to stay within their private pods, but it does take away from the wonderful camaraderie we all love in the sport. All participants are great about honoring mask and social distance protocols and most participants are willing to play with even the most beginner of players. Something that, as an instructor, and the local USA Pickleball Ambassador really value. I know I can suggest Piedmont play to my fledgelings and they will be welcomed in with open paddles. I’d be happy to discuss this issue further at any time

  6. My feeling is, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. The first-come, first served system works, and the sportsmanship of the group is wonderful. Good players are willing to play with beginners to help them improve. It’s a collegial group, and all are welcome.

  7. reservations for pickleball court time only works for the specific group making the reservations, just ask any player from Lincoln Park in Alameda. It personifies the “us” and “them” division of an otherwise social sport. Typical pickleball games last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. At a venue like Alameda where there are 4 courts the “2 on 2 off ” or “4 on 4 off” (depending on the number of people waiting outside), works great with only 5-10 minute wait time. Reduce the number of playable courts because of reservations and you double or triple that wait time. the only real solution to all this is for pickleball advocates to get out there and champion the development of more pickleball courts! FOr example, Oakland has NOT one pickleball court available to players, so guess where they’re going to go?

  8. Any reservation system is problematic for fast paced Pickleball games and detracts from its social aspects. Catching up with friends under the tree, chatting with fellow players, watching games, and rotating players in multiple games are all the best part of Pickleball – not a problem to be eliminated! Our friendly group of players definitely see it as a fun social activity, not just exercise.

    A reservations “system”? Yuck! It is unwanted and unneeded. Please don’t destroy our Pickleball by offering a “solution” to a problem that does not exist!

  9. Pickleball has been a life saver for me, particularly during covid. It keeps me fit and active and I have met some really wonderful people, sweet at any time but particularly important during covid. I agree with Rick–people are very respectful of the covid regulations and the simple system for signing up to play a game is egalitarian and efficient. One of the many reasons I love not having a reservation system is that I get to meet and play with people I otherwise would never meet. Likewise, it is very easy to just show up knowing I will get to play vs making plans to meet someone at the courts and playing exclusively with just them. Please keep it the way it is–it seems to be working and I would be very glad to have a longer conversation about this if someone would like. thanks very much

  10. I have been involved in Piedmont Pickleball, as a player and advocate, since its early days. I have also played at a number of other venues. I must echo Rick and Tom’s opposition to a Pickleball reservation system. I have never played where such a system exists. It is always the case that players randomly arrive, put their paddles up and wait their turn to play. They play one game and then yield the court to the next players in line. I have not known of a single active player who objects to this way of managing our play.

    It is probably safe to say that we would all like to see dedicated courts constructed so we could have open ended playing time. This would allow us to acommodate more players. If you have knowledge or influence that could make that happen please let us know.

    In the meantime if someone wants to make our community more aware of the pleasure of this wonderful sport please first speak to our very active volunteer player/leaders for the most accurate and up to date information.

    Les Ellis

  11. Rick is absolutely correct about the social aspect of pickleball. A reservation system would detract significantly from that aspect of the game and is not needed. I agree with the suggestion that the reporter visit the courts and talk with real players. It would also be instructive to know that the Walnut Creek Pickleball Club, which is older and much larger than the group of players in Piedmont, has no reservation system.

  12. I have been actively involved with Piedmont Pickleball (“PPB”). I run the google group, monitor on Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Middle School and often interface with Steven Chiavarra so things run smoothly. Keeping PPB going during Covid has been a challenge. While our group is growing, it is rare that a rotating in player waits more than 10 minutes. Pairs and families are welcome to put their paddles up together if there is a wait. New players are always welcomed in and given a few gentle first games. And in the Pandemic our group has worked diligently to self-regulate and keep everyone safe, especially as we are a more mature group.

    I find it odd that a non-participant was interviewed by writer Esper rather than one of the many active players photographer Reichle observed last Saturday. I assure all Exedra readers that Piedmont Picklers highly value the social interaction of pickleball and seeing each other during Covid has been critical. The sharing and teaching down is a critical part of both improving one’s skills and the social aspect. A reservation system will eliminate the teaching aspect, many of the social aspects of interfacing with various plays and fundamentally a reservation system is very undesirable and simply doesn’t work given the inherent nature and flow of pickleball, even in “normal” times. The Recreation sub-committee heard robust testimony and the rejection of a reservation system by all who spoke was universal. Please do not ruin what has become one of the primary senior physical activities in Piedmont.

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