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Pickleball - The Early Years at Lake of the Woods

In 2017 we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of our fantastic community: Lake of the Woods (LOW). Two years prior to that, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the game with the funny name: Pickleball. Yes, the fastest growing sport in the country is that old!

Here at LOW, pickleball got its start in 2006. Shirley and John Cavanaugh of Lakeview Parkway contacted the LOW Activity Director, at that time, to discuss the procedures to get pickleball started. Shirley and John learned the game in Ft. Myers, FL, where they were spending their winters at that time. They were told that they had to get permission from the then General Manager (GM). Even though they received much resistance at the beginning, Shirley and John persisted and bought the needed equipment themselves after they were allowed to use the new Community Center (CC). They used the Lake Currents to advertise a Beginners class and how the game was played. Channel 18 played a USA Pickleball Association (USAPA – the sanctioning body of pickleball) video that described the game.

The Beginners class started with 6-8 new players and they were taught the fundamentals of the game. Pickleball was played at the CC on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30 – 4:00 PM. Over the years, management changed at LOW with Phil Rodenberg becoming GM and Sylvia Selinsky the LOW Community Operations Manager. Phil and Sylvia were very helpful in the growth of pickleball at LOW by allowing for more playing days and extended times to play at the CC.

In the early days of pickleball at LOW, John says that, “There were times when we did not have enough to play, but we’ve had tremendous growth. We didn’t have enough to divide into levels, so everyone just played together and had fun. We have always stressed the fun aspect of the game.”

In 2008, Shirley and John looked for outdoor space to create two courts. There was an unused concrete slab next to the volleyball court near the Fitness Center. Outdoor play was now in operation. During the winter of 2010 while Shirley and John were snowbirding in Florida and after the skateboard park was no longer being utilized near the compactor site, Bob Spencer and Jeff Vandling had arranged to get that area converted into two pickleball courts.