Thank you to Mahon About Town, Mike Harter and Bill Hoenk for the repost of this awesome blog! Pickleball has picked up quite the traction on Nantucket and this article explains why it’s become the new favorite year-round activity for Islanders.
Mike Harter explains the difference between platform tennis and pickleball, how each is played, and their origins
The next time you find yourself out near the Nantucket Memorial Airport after dark, maybe about 4:30 pm, take a peek down Macy’s Lane. If you see the glow of lights, head down and see if you can take in some of the action at Nantucket Platform Tennis Association.
The NPTA started in 1975 when Sandy Craig of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Nantucket wanted something to do in Nantucket in the winter. He knew Charlie Fisher, owner of Island Lumber, had a large chunk of land off of Polpis Road near Don Allen Ford. Craig asked Fisher if they could use a plot of his land to build a platform tennis court. The two came to an understanding, shook hands, and Nantucket Platform Tennis was born.
There were about 20 founding members in 1975. The first court was built in 1976, a second added in 1979, and a third in 1985. By the early 2000’s the sport was so popular the club capped its membership at 140. In 2009 the club moved to its current home, Land Bank owned property at the end of Macy’s Lane, where it’s a welcome sight at a once unused and desolate end of the road.
Platform “don’t call me paddle” tennis began in 1928 at Fox Meadow Tennis Club in Scarsdale, New York. James Cogswell and his friend had been trying to create a sport that could be played outdoors during the brutal New York winters. The court is 40 feet long, one-third the size of a tennis court, and is surrounded by a chicken wire fence 12 feet high. The taut fencing allows balls to be played off the wall and remain in play.
The beautiful raised wooden platforms have blowing heaters under the courts and trap doors to allow for snow removal. Add some lighting, and platform tennis is ideal for play in even the coldest weather. The new location on Macy’s Lane also paved the way for a beautiful new clubhouse, or “warming hut,” equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, and cozy social space.
If you walk behind the platform tennis courts, you will see the brand new pickleball courts, just completed last month. The sport of pickleball started in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Congressman Joel Pritchard and his two friends returned from golf and found their families bored one Saturday afternoon. They attempted to set up badminton, but no one could find the shuttlecock. They improvised by grabbing a Whiffle ball, lowering the badminton net, and making a few paddles out of plywood.
A pickleball court is four feet shorter than a platform tennis court and has no walls. Platform tennis is played with a spongy rubber ball, while pickleball is played with a plastic ball with holes drilled into it. The main difference in play in pickleball, aside from there being no walls, is the unique no-volley zone on either side of the net, affectionately known as “the kitchen.”
Although platform tennis paddles can be textured and have holes, pickleball paddles must be completely smooth. This is such an important difference that pickleball leagues and their ilk will use a special tool to measure the smoothness of a paddle. Paddles with too much texture can create an unfair advantage for a player.
Pickleball is extremely popular among seniors, as it is low impact and offers many health benefits. The craze spread over the last decade with seniors playing in Arizona, Florida, California, and in Texas, over the winter, then bringing the game back to their home communities in the Northeast. Don’t be fooled, both games are fast paced and suitable for all ages.
A recent study by John Ratey, MD, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and an internationally recognized expert in neuropsychiatry, showed racket sports are especially great exercise, because they simultaneously tax the cardiovascular system and the brain.
“The combination of challenging the brain and body has a greater positive impact than aerobic exercise alone,” Ratey found. “That combination of aerobic activity, strength building, flexibility, and mental precision is incredibly rare with other sports. Additionally, racket sports can be played at any age, and they bring you together with other people for social interaction.”
If you need something to do this winter, head down to the end of Macy’s Lane or visit www.ackrsa.org.