Pickleball on a Roll at Fort Hill Activity Center
The fast-growing sport of pickleball, new to Naperville, is now available at Fort Hill Activity Center, attracting new players every week.
Pickleball players Ed and Jody at the Friday morning open gym at Fort Hill Activity Center
Curious about what pickleball is?
A blend of ping-pong and tennis, the game is played with a hard paddle and a wiffle ball on a smaller version of a tennis court. You can see it in action on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings and also on Friday evenings at Fort Hill Activity Center.
A pickleball clinic at Fort Hill Activity Center, Oct. 2016
Visiting Pickleball Open Gym at Fort Hill Activity Center
I visited the morning and evening pickleball open gyms on Friday, January 27, and talked with several players who also had been curious, having first seen the game played at Fort Hill Activity Center as they walked by the gymnasium.
Alison, a former tennis player, had been coming to Fort Hill for a yoga class and saw the pickleball open gym. “It looked like fun, so I decided to try it,” she said. Only in her third week, Alison is playing in the rotation, along with the other players. “I did not take any lessons, but just looked at the information available on YouTube on where to stand and how to score. People are so nice! They are welcoming and encouraging to beginners. And the game gives you a good workout. It’s more aerobic than you might think, and I was sore the next day after I played the first time.”
Alison (middle) waits with players John (left) and Lyle (right) to rotate into the next game
Most of the other players at the pickleball open gym were relatively new to the game as well, with several months to a year’s experience. Like Alison, Jody came without any formal lessons. “When I first started, everyone was so friendly. I was surprised to learn what a great workout it is. I first came to Fort Hill with my grandson who has basketball on Saturday. And now I love playing pickleball here.”
Andy (on right, in the court closest to the camera)
Andy, who works in the Fitness Center at Fort Hill, just began playing a few months ago, mastering the game quickly. He now teaches a class for beginners.
One of the more experienced players, Judy, a retired PE teacher, formerly taught pickleball to her high school students. A regular player on Friday evening and Sunday morning, she had brought a friend with her. Judy praised the Fort Hill gymnasium, saying that the facility has the best lighting she has ever played under. “Pickleball is a great activity. It’s getting more popular; last week we had all 3 courts filled with 8 people rotating in.”
A high school student (left) and Judy (second from left) play at the Friday evening open gym
New Players and Beginners Welcome: Here’s How to Get Started
1. Register for a Pickleball Basics class or Pickleball Skills and Drills program at Fort Hill Activity Center. After just 4 lessons in a Pickleball Basics class, most players feel comfortable with the rules and have gained enough skill to play at one of the pickleball open gyms. Paddles and balls are provided for class participants.
2. Visit a pickleball open gym session at Fort Hill Activity Center. Check the current schedule here. Wear gym shoes and comfortable clothes. You can purchase an inexpensive paddle before you come or borrow one at the front desk. For a quick review of the rules and how to play the game, view one of the many videos available on YouTube. You can pay a low daily fee for the open gym, get a 5-visit punch card, or an annual open gym membership. Or, if you are a fitness member, the open gym is free.
Players line up their paddles to mark the order of rotation back into play
3. Keep practicing! Before long, you will be able to step in and play at any open gym, enjoying all of the benefits of this fun sport, and making new friends at the same time.
4. Take it outdoors in the summer. Try our outdoor courts at Ashbury Park, DuPage River Sports Complex and Ranchview Park. The tennis courts at these parks are lined both for tennis and pickleball. The courts at Ashbury Park and Ranchview Park are lined to allow play using the tennis net, which may be lowered if desired. One of the courts at DuPage River Sports Complex allows 2 games to be played simultaneously on one court, requiring players to bring their own pickleball net. The other court is lined so that pickleball players can use the tennis net.
Pickleball at DuPage River Sports Complex
5. Watch our website and Program Guide for more opportunities to play, including tournaments and leagues as interest grows.
6. Learn more about pickleball in our area. Read a recent article in the Daily Southtown about the fast growth of pickleball the Chicago suburbs.
7. Connect with the national organization, the USA Pickleball Association, for more ideas and information.