Pickleball: Paddles Up!

Doug Koch. Photo by Tim Engle.

Soon after Roseville resident Doug Koch was bitten by the pickleball bug, he was in, of course, a pickle: The nearest courts were about an hour’s drive no matter the direction.

Where would he play? Who would he play with?

So he started pimpin’. Pickleball pimpin’.

Dubbed “the Pickleball Pimp” by local pro Matthew Blom for his prowess in matching prospective players, Koch is largely credited with the game’s great growth regionally in recent years. He’s somewhat deflective about that idea, but considering he has by his own estimate taught thousands of Northern Californians how to play in a decade as an International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association-certified instructor, it’s a tough point to counter.

Nationally, pickleball participation has grown 39.3% over the past two years to more than more than 4.8 million people, according to a spring report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball courts are found everywhere from city parks to private fitness clubs, indoor gyms and even shopping malls. In Sacramento, city parks where pickleball courts are overlaid on tennis courts include Magnolia, Valley Oak, Garcia Bend, Curtis and Cabrillo. Koch estimates a drive in search of a playing site in much of the region now to be only a few minutes.

Young adults, he says, are playing pickup games after work, much in the way of basketball. The game’s minimal expenses and footprint make it accessible for anyone “from 6 to 90” with decent handeye coordination and mobility, Koch says. All it takes is at least two people, a space a quarter the size of a tennis court, a badminton or volleyball net, a Wiffle-like ball roughly the size of a tennis ball and a couple of table tennis-like paddles, and it’s game on.

“If you can get a paddle in somebody’s hand and you get them to hit balls for five or 10 minutes, they get hooked right away,” Koch says. “It doesn’t take much more than that.”

Interested in learning the game? Koch gives house-call lessons at local courts and can tailor instruction to any group’s needs through a combination of camps, clinics, and one-on one or small-group lessons. Contact him at doug@pickleballpimp.com or (530) 713-5395.