By RUBEN LOWMAN
For Scott Inman and his fellow North Myrtle Beach Pickleballers, the quickly-emerging sport they have grown to love is something they want to share with as many people as possible.
That sport, pickleball, has become the newest craze sweeping the country as more and more newcomers find out that their early interest swiftly blossoms into a deep-seated passion and love for not only the game but the new group of friends and family they gained while playing.
“I have played pickleball for 10 years,” Inman explained. “I started in the sport to get exercise in a fun environment. The North Myrtle Beach Pickleballers Association is a great group of people who enjoy the fun family-oriented game of pickleball and the social gatherings, as well as doing community service projects called Pickle-ing for a Cause.”
That is why they were out this past Saturday, March 26, at the J. Bryan Floyd Community Center on Possum Trot Road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for their “Pickleball Fundraiser Expo”, trying to raise money so they can expand the amount of places they can play and the number of players throughout the city.
“The Pickleball Expo is being held to raise money to build more pickleball courts for the residents of North Myrtle Beach,” Inman said.
As the sport has exponentially grown in popularity across the nation over the past several years, more people have come to enjoy making the game a regular part of their routines, playing in organized groups, tournaments, and just for fun with their families and friends. Inman said that one of the major attractions of the game is how fun and accessible it is for everyone.
Practically anyone can play pickleball and pretty much anywhere, with Inman explaining that grandparents can play with their grandchildren, and all you need to play is a ball and a few small, wood racquets and you’re ready to roll.
“The expo is open to anyone who has an interest in learning about pickleball, which is the fastest growing sport in America,” explained Inman.
All of the activities at the event were free for all children and youth, from ages 9 through 17. The NMB Pickleballers welcomed everyone, walk-ins included, and beginners or novice players were highlighted.
A big mission statement behind holding the expo was to educate individuals in our community who may not have been around the game yet about the sport and just how much fun it is to play, Inman said. They held beginner classes for the first several hours of the expo, while also offering skills training sessions for players who wanted to perhaps pinpoint a certain part of the game specifically. Additionally, they had a rodeo skills challenge and a round robin tournament.
“We are hosting the event to raise awareness of pickleball in our community, especially the youth of North Myrtle Beach,” Inman explained. “We will be providing beginner classes by certified pickleball instructor Vicki Kelley. We are also providing skills training sessions by Darry Del Corro. These skills training sessions are for any level play to help you take your game to the next level.”
Inman said they were also hosting the expo in conjunction The Blood Connection for a good cause in the local community and its residents, as they collected blood donations for the area’s local hospitals.
The group also held a bake sale at the expo, as well as having pickleball vendors on site. They held a raffle some great gift cards and gift baskets that came from area shops and businesses, along with unique artwork from the local community. On top of that, they had special pickleball equipment and Carolina Panthers game tickets in the raffle, as well.
Inman and his fellow NMB Pickleballers were out and about educating the local community about pickleball so they can raise funds to build more courts throughout the city and to also increase the overall level of players participating in the game in the city.
The group began in 2009 as the first of its kind on the Grand Strand, started by local residents Joe Gallo and Fran Jenkins, who decided the area needed a way to fall in love with the game. They taught a small group of people to play the game on the outdoor tennis courts, and word quickly spread. From a group of less than 10 players initially, the association is now comprised of more than 700 people.
The group plays Monday through Friday inside or outside at the community center. Play is also available on the lighted outdoor courts any day of the week, weather permitting. There are six courts available inside and four courts available outside, with no cost to play outside and a nominal fee to play inside. Indoor play is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“In June we will be hosting a Pickleball with the Stars event with local celebrities,” Inman said.
Anyone is welcome to come and play, he said. They have a variety of skill level players and they all are willing to teach the game to newcomers. So if you want to find out what the fastest growing sport in America is all about, or you just want to make some new friends and have fun doing it, Inman said, go down to Possum Trot and pick up a paddle and start playing.