Ron Lemon, at left, is poised  to return a volley during a recent pickleball match.

Ron Lemon, at left, is poised to return a volley during a recent pickleball match.

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

I have been in a jam or two before. But now I am in a pickle.
I have a Lemon to thank for it.
The pickle is about a sport called pickleball. Do I want to become a pickleball athlete? That’s the pickle I am in.
Though not yet at Olympic heights, pickleball is growing so rapidly in popularity it is one of the fastest growing sports in North America especially among seniors. So says my mentor, Ron Lemon, as we drive from Welland to Port Colborne for our Tuesday afternoon matches at the strikingly handsome Vale Health and Wellness Centre.
“It’s catching on big with seniors,” says Lemon, a senior statesman with celebrity status: He is married to the world-class triathlete, Lynda Lemon. The statesman says because I am already in the age demographic, I should get in on the ground floor ahead of the oncoming wave of picklers. Wait a second: Picklers? Is that what pickleball athletes are called? Wait another second: Are we athletes?
The game is played on a court similar to a badminton court and it has some of the rules of tennis although they are changed slightly. A wood paddle, not a racquet is used and the yellow ball is plastic and has holes – perforations is the official description, not unlike the Wiffle ball baseball.
On the days we have been at the courts, the number of players has ranged from six to 14.
The game can be played by two players or four – singles or doubles, as the jocks would say.
It has terminology well worth reading. I now know the meaning of dink (no, it is not what you call an opponent on the other side of the net: “Hey, you dink, that serve was in play!”), foot foul, poach and other pickleball pecadilloes.
My mentor is cool as a cucumber when it comes to this game. His serve is so elegant, so Ruthian I have taken to calling him the Sultan of Serve.
He is helping to organize a district competition, probably in early June. Me? I look forward to the end of the hour, when I call it a day and watch the proficient picklers from a bench at courtside.
So I am torn between playing to become a proficient pickleball pickler, and participating just for the fitness aspect. The stretching and bending can be torturous, especially for those of us who do not do much of either, especially during winter.
For the moment, I am stretching toward the latter of the two options. I am bending in favour of it.
By now you know the pickle I have been in, the dill-ema I have had. Do I become a serious pickler like my mentor, the Sultan of Serve, or do I just go for the exercise? It’s been a battle: Back and forth, back and forth, like a sustained volley in a good game of pickleball.
Well, I am putting an end to this waffling once and for all. I am not going to stew about it any longer. I am no longer in a pickle. I will play pickleball with what it takes. Relish.

(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ont.)

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