By Anne Granado
Though still relatively unknown, the game of pickleball is quickly gaining popularity, which Jarrod and Rebecca New, pickleball coaches in Texarkana, attribute mainly to the pandemic. “During the coronavirus outbreak, many people were looking for ways to occupy their time in outdoor venues,” Jarrod says. “Many pickleball facilities consist of outdoor courts, so large numbers of people started playing during 2020.”
Another factor in pickleball’s surge of fame can also be attributed to the media. “It has become more accessible over the past few years. Many people still have not heard about pickleball, but it is gaining notoriety because professional pickleball is now being televised on some major sports networks,” Jarrod says. “There is a thriving pickleball community in Texarkana, and it is growing steadily.”
According to the USA Pickleball Association website, pickleball is a lot like tennis but has a few modifications, such as a smaller court and solid wood or composite paddles to hit a plastic ball over a net. It combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. The USA Pickleball Association says that pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, where “three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum — whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities — are credited for creating the game.” Then, during the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. In 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was organized, and the first rule book was published.
Fast forward to 2023, and the USA Pickleball Association website says that “membership numbers reached the 70,000 mark in February of 2023, after a nearly 30 percent increase in membership growth in 2022. In its 2023 Topline Participation Report, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row. According to the report, pickleball is now up to a total of 8.9 million players in the United States over the age of six years old, an increase from 4.8 million in 2022. In March, USA Pickleball and the Professional Pickleball Association announced that the 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships, presented by the PPA Tour, will be held in Dallas this November.”
Jarrod and Rebecca fell in love with pickleball in 2021 while on vacation with their four sons in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “We found a nearby pickleball court and picked up some cheap paddles and pickleballs. We learned how to play by Googling the basics of gameplay,” Rebecca says. “By the end of our first pickleball experience, we were hooked!”
The couple has always lived an active lifestyle. Jarrod played tennis, ping pong, softball, and flag football through intramural sports at his college, and Rebecca played volleyball in high school and college. “Because of our love for sports and our desire to stay physically active, we have tried to find activities that are fun for our whole family,” Jarrod says.
Today, Jarrod works as a web developer/computer programmer for CitiBank and serves as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Northern Hills Baptist Church. Rebecca has been a stay-at-home homeschool mom since 2003. She is very active in children’s ministry and music ministry at their church and is a high school, college, and club volleyball official. Jarrod has lived in Texarkana since the age of four, and Rebecca moved here after they were married in 1996. They are parents to four boys: Evan, 25; Mathan, 22; Braden, 20; and Joshua, 16. When the boys were younger, Jarrod and Rebecca would take them on neighborhood walks, bike rides, and trips to the park. “We would also take the boys to amusement parks and museums. In town, we played volleyball and church softball,” Rebecca says. “In recent years, we have begun going on trips in our camper and trying to find activities in the area of our campsites, such as hiking, sightseeing, playing disc golf, attempting escape rooms, and, of course, playing pickleball.”
After their first experience in Hot Springs, the New family continued researching rules, strategies, and tips for improvement. “We eventually painted pickleball lines on our driveway and put up a net so we could play to our hearts’ content,” Jarrod says. “I was approached in the fall of 2021 about teaching a beginner pickleball class at Texarkana College, and I taught my first pickleball lessons in November of 2021. I have taught various classes and one-day workshops ever since.”
Because of their growing love for pickleball and desire to grow the pickleball community in Texarkana, Jarrod and Rebecca began online training for potential instructors in early 2023. “We attended an in-person workshop in Dallas in April of 2023, took an exam, and earned our certifications to be instructors through PPR, Professional Pickleball Registry,” Rebecca says. “We are also members of the USA Pickleball Association.” Jarrod is a certified pickleball coach, and Rebecca is a certified associate coach.”
According to Jarrod and Rebecca, pickleball is fun because it is easy to learn to play in one day, and new players can improve drastically over a short period of time. “Whenever we go to a pickleball facility, one thing that stands out is that everyone is smiling and having a good time,” Jarrod says. “Another reason it is fun is because of the social aspect. People of all ages and stages of learning can show up at a pickleball location during open play, get on the courts, and have a blast with people they have just met. “
Anytime the News go out of town, they always find a pickleball facility and go during open play. “We have played people who were beginners to near experts, but it is always fun and invigorating, and we have met many interesting people,” Rebecca says. “It truly is just good, plain fun!”
Another inviting aspect of the sport is that pickleball can be played by all ages and activity levels. “According to the USA Pickleball Association, the age demographic for playing pickleball is very diverse, with the largest percentage of pickleball players (approximately 52%) being 55 years or older,” Jarrod says. “It really is a sport for all ages. Pickleball is an excellent form of exercise, but is not as strenuous as similar sports, such as tennis and racquetball.”
If Texarkana citizens want to start playing, only four places are known to Rebecca and Jarrod. Pinkerton Center at Texarkana College has indoor courts that are available to its members by reservation; Southwest Center has three indoor courts that are available on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Friday evenings; First Baptist Moores Lane has three indoor courts that are available Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons; and First Lutheran has outdoor courts available on Sunday afternoons. “Both Pinkerton Center and Southwest Center are in the process of converting some outdoor tennis courts to pickleball courts,” Rebecca says. “There is a pickleball Facebook page called Texarkana Pickle, where information is given about local pickleball happenings!”
This summer, the News have several upcoming workshops that they will be conducting through Texarkana College throughout the summer. Rebecca teaches pickleball for kids during Kids’ College at TC in June, and Jarrod and Rebecca offer private and group lessons for beginner to intermediate players. “We know that pickleball is catching on throughout the country, and we would like to see it gain more attention in Texarkana,” Jarrod says. “Our ultimate dream is to open our own family-run pickleball facility that will be open six days a week to accommodate the schedules of a broader range of the Texarkana community.”
• Pickleball is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles are the most common
• The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles
How to Play:
• The ball is served underhanded, diagonally to the opposing side. Points are scored by the serving side only.
• Players must follow the double bounce rule – after the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning.
• The first side scoring 11 points and leading by at least 2 points wins!
*Taken from the USA Pickleball Association