© Robert Hills | Dreamstime.com

New Sport Takes Off in Tower Grove Park

July 20, 2018 - 10:38 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Some call it the game of the future. Its growth this decade has exploded, even in St. Louis. The game is pickle ball.

At the Tower Grove Park pickle ball courts, there seemed to be a common theme among those who play the game. Once they start playing, they can't get enough.

The game, which is sort of a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, is exploding in popularity, says Mike Chapin, US pickle ball ambassador and owner of stlouispickleball.com,

“It is the fastest growing sport in America, there’s over 600 percent growth rate in the last eight years combined. The USAPA estimates there are about 3 million people playing the United States, and it’s growing globally,” he says.

Tower Grove tennis pro John Callahan, who also runs the Callahan Pickle Ball Academy says the game is easy to learn and difficult to master, and there's a US open for pickle ball. This year’s tournament took place in Naples Florida about two months ago.

“We probably had 20 plus people play in the US open. We had a couple win gold, a couple win silver, but one thing’s for sure, we all had a ball,” he says.

Lorraine Hall thinks the game literally helped save her life.

“December 2015 I suffered a major stroke, and I was totally paralyzed on my right side. I had exhausted all my therapy, and a friend had told me to just get on the court and start hitting the ball while they were playing. It helped me with my mobility and I fell in love with it. I lost 50 pounds playing pickle ball,” she says.

 Jenny Pettinga says pickle ball is way more social than tennis or golf.

“You don’t necessarily have to always have a match set up, you can just come down. I came down here without a game and I’ve been playing for two hours now, and it’s that way in every community. I went down to Indianapolis for Memorial Day weekend, same thing. I got in touch with one person and I played all weekend,” she says.

 And this weekend, the first annual pickle ball Rockin' Round Robin is Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. at Tower Grove Park. For more information on rules, scoring or where to play, go to stlouispickleball.com.