ROCHELLE – Lauren Hintzsche was on vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama about two years ago, when she stumbled upon what she initially believed to be a tennis court while walking around.
Instead, Hintzsche saw locals playing a relatively new sport called pickleball. Hintzsche, who taught physical education in Rochelle for nearly three decades, said she had some knowledge of the sport but had never seen the sport played up close until this day.
“I knew the sport, but had never played or introduced it to my children,” Hintzsche said. “I asked the gentleman on the field to play and he told me to show up at 9 am the next day. I was hooked from that point on and played almost every day I was there.
Pickleball was established in 1965 as a sport of paddleball that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Players use sturdy paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a wiffle ball, over a net and attempt to score points. Two or four players can play on a court.
As in badminton, players serve the ball under the arms so that contact with the ball is made below the waist. As in tennis, players serve the ball behind the baseline and diagonally toward the opponent’s service court. Unlike tennis, however, only the service side can score points.
“My attraction to the sport was that it was an easy game to learn and for older people to play,” Hintzsche said. “It can be played at any level, from beginner to competitive play… We will have players show up to the REC Center and play just for the practice and they will spend the time of their lives there. I think it’s a great way to get people off their couch and hit the gym.
Since learning about pickleball while on vacation, Hintzsche has become much more active in the pickleball community. In addition to creating a Facebook page called Rochelle Pickleball several months ago, Hintzsche has partnered with the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District to teach monthly pickleball clinics and host weekly open court sessions at the REC Center every Wednesday evening. from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and every Thursday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“It’s a sport that anyone can play,” Hintzsche said. “I played with 80 and 90 year olds and I played with children as young as 10 years old… When I started to discover this sport, I thought that it was necessary to present it to as many people as possible. I contacted the park district to find out what we could do and volunteered to meet people and teach them how to play. There was an outdoor area already set up for pickleball and another was set up this year.
Hintzsche had been running clinics on the outdoor grounds across from the REC Center for a few months, but with the temperatures dropping, clinics are moving indoors to the REC Center. Clinics cost $ 5 and last 60 to 90 minutes. Hintzsche said the main goals of the clinics are to bring together new players to not only learn the basics, but also enjoy friendly competition.
“I want to get people into the sport right away,” Hintzsche said. “I show people the basics and then we start playing games. We started out with just a few nets used, which could hold up to eight people, but now we have three nets set up on Wednesday nights and we have people waiting to play. We could probably throw in one or two more nets in the future. “
Interested players can register for clinics at the REC Center or on the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District website at https://www.rochelleparkdistrict.org. The Rochelle Pickleball and Rochelle Community Park District Facebook pages are also resources for information on pickleball as well as upcoming pickleball clinics or open courts.
“I saw people come on Wednesdays and Thursdays and watch pickleball,” Hintzsche said. “Once they see the sport and see how much fun people are having when they play… It’s competitive, but people aren’t really doing that well and they’re having a lot of fun. I think people see that pickleball is not a threatening sport and when they like it they come back.