By Jennifer Corr
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the second consecutive year in its annual 2022 Topline Participation Report.
And it certainly helps that the ability to become a pro transcends age or fitness level.
According to Pickleballmax.com, pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, just outside Seattle. The sport is a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, and is played on a court about 1/3 the size of a tennis court with a net 34 inches high at the center. Pickleball is played with a paddle and perforated ball that is somewhat similar to a wiffle ball.
“At its most basic level, the pickleball is served diagonally across the net to the opponent’s service court using an underhand motion,” the Pickleball Max website explained. “The ball is then hit back and forth across the net until a player fails to return the ball in accordance with the rules. With points only being won by the serving team, games are generally played to 11 points.”
The popularity of the sport has surely made its way to Long Island, and certainly the Jericho community. And now, players near and far will have the chance to play pickleball no matter the weather.
Muttontown resident Michael Glover, in partnership with Dani Braga, opened the indoor pickleball facility called the Pickle Club with full time hours in March. It is located at 200 Robbins Lane, Suite D2 in Jericho. Braga is the owner of LIFT Fitness in Jericho and the current Jericho High School Boy’s Varsity Soccer coach.
Glover and his wife Lisa have four children, who all started in the Jericho Union Free School District. All of them ultimately graduated from Friends Academy in Locust Valley.
“They played sports on travel teams in the Jericho community,” Glover said. “I coached for years in Jericho. I coached soccer and basketball and when they were really young, baseball… I was active in sports in the community. I picked up platform tennis about three years ago. I play in Woodbury at Crest Hollow, and I was actually introduced to pickleball there last summer. While I was doing that, I identified that as a business opportunity.”
Glover, who has a background in real estate and investment banking, saw opening an indoor pickleball facility as a venture that would be interesting, exciting and a lot of fun. “And it has been,” Glover said, adding that he wanted to fill the year-round demand for pickleball courts.
The facility is climate controlled and has three courts, with a highly cushioned playing surface. Players can easily reserve a court for $45 an hour, join an open-play for $20 per two hours and try skills and drills over a 90 minute period for $30.
The facility provides a place to play all year round. The Pickle Club is the place for those who are sensitive to warm or cold weather. It is also a solution for those windy or rainy days.
“If you want to play outdoors in a public park, you often have to share the court with people who aren’t part of your group,” Glover said. “If you reserve a court indoors, you get to play with your group, which is appealing to a lot of people, especially newer players who are less comfortable playing with people that are a little more experienced.”
Currently there are close to 700 members registered with the Pickle Club. There is no membership or guest fee. Membership means a person is registered in the Pickle Club’s system. And, the Pickle Club offers coaching from certified instructors.
Glover believes there are multiple reasons why pickleball is so popular: a small court, a ball that doesn’t travel too far, quick game play and a community of novice players, which only adds to the game’s accessibility.
“It’s also incredibly inexpensive to get involved in the game,” Glover said.
And, CJ Shank, a coach at the Pickle Club alongside Linda Vonderlieth,, said that while he’s played sports his whole life, he’s never met a more inclusive group of people than the community of pickleball players.
“People are so happy just to play,” Shank said. “I think the reason why it’s getting so much recognition is because you don’t have to have played a sport in high school or college or anything to really get out there and get involved in this. I think it’s so inclusive and there’s not too much moving, it’s not too hard on your joints and it’s bringing everyone out to at least give it a try.”
And what keeps people coming back to the new Pickle Club, Shank said, is the environment that has been built there.
“You feel like you are part of an extended family,” Shank said. “You have people just looking to get together, have a great time and get some movement during the day, some exercise.”
To learn more, visit the website the-pickle-club.com or call 516-210-6663.