McCall Picks Up Pickleball
Local clubs give rise to the sport throughout Central Idaho
By Kailan Manandic
McCall is well known for its access to the outdoors, with Payette Lake, Brundage Mountain, and numerous trails throughout the surrounding area.
While many are enthralled by the well-established outdoor activities, an up-and-coming sport is growing all around Valley County.
“It doesn’t matter if you're eight or 88,” says Larry Keene, president of the Valley County Pickleball Club. “Pickleball, they call it a healthy addiction. Anybody can play and there are clubs here in Valley County. We love to host beginners every Tuesday.”
Keene’s club has been spearheading the sport’s rise in popularity alongside the Mountains and Meadows Pickleball Club. The game is played similarly to doubles tennis, but with a much smaller court—about one-fourth the size of a tennis court.
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis as players use paddles to volley a pickleball, which is similar to a wiffle ball.
For Keene, the social aspect of the game is what initially attracted him to the sport.
“It's such a social game, you quickly make lots of friends. We have more friends than we know what to do with all due to pickleball,” Keene says. “In addition to that, the game becomes more fun, especially as you move up and start getting better. It's such a technical game; you’re always being challenged.”
The game has been described as one of the fastest-growing sports across the country by numerous news outlets and has been adopted in many Pacific Northwest areas.
McCall is no exception as the county clubs host pickleball games within the city every week, along with games in Tamarack and Donnelly.
While the pickleball community is thriving, Keene and the local pickleball clubs are attempting to more firmly establish the sport by installing dedicated courts in various areas.
Currently, the clubs set up their pickleball courts on top of tennis courts or within indoor facilities.
“We hope to get to a point where we have pickleball courts in multiple cities,” Keene says. “The city of Donnelly has only given us permission to paint lines over tennis courts—we’re hoping to get four permanent courts within that one tennis court.”
As pickleball continues to rise in popularity, Keene and the Valley County Pickleball Club are working with local youth camps to bring the sport to counselors and campers.
“There is so much activity in this area, from mountain biking and road biking to fishing and lake sports, and everything else you can imagine,” Keene says. “Pickleball is just one more activity, but there is no better way to meet people and to get a good core group of friends. It’s a guaranteed way to increase your social network and number of friends so mix pickleball in to your routine, not only for your physical well-being, but your social well-being too.”