Scott Gerber photographed the action photos and most, but not all, of the state qualifier group photos. Interview


High School Tennis to Switch to High School Pickleball

It was going to happen eventually, but did it have to happen this soon? The OSHAA announced this morning that Ohio high school tennis will be switching to Ohio high school pickleball. An OSHAA spokesperson stated, "We tested the concept in the Northern Southern League and almost everyone was ecstatic." He added, "The cost of entry for players is lower thanks to the relatively low cost of a paddle. The paddle, which does not contain strings, will never need to be restrung, and the balls will last the entire season. While the sport will be played outdoors, school gyms can be used during inclement weather. The court itself is smaller so that may encourage some schools with insufficient land to build courts and start teams." The change will not occur until Fall 2019.

Maxine Regal
Maxine Regal - Click to enlarge
Unlike high school tennis, Ohio high school pickleball will be mixed gender. Games do not take as long as regular tennis so three singles of both boys and girls are played, followed by two teams of boys doubles, two teams of girls doubles, and one team of mixed doubles. When the term "boys" and "girls" are referenced, sometimes that is not really the case. The OSHAA deals with eligibility issues where older players want to play. An official stated, "Pickleball basically allows the OSHAA to throw the rules out the window when it comes to ages. Players up to 80 years old can compete."

How do the players feel about the change. It has been somewhat mixed. On a positive note, Bloomingburg's Noah Storm commented, "My parents are millennials and they struggled to warm up Hot Pockets for us to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. Mad Max (actually Bloomingburg's Maxine Regal) makes real food for us to eat after the matches. We had lasagna, apple salad, and five different types of pie. She made enough food for both teams and the fans. She then helped us learn how to write in cursive."

It's not always positive though. One student, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated, "The older players stick together. I drop-shotted Ethel Graves from Liberty Burton and then I laughed about it. Max found out, and my plans to eat strawberry-rhubarb pie came to an abrupt end when she tossed a few carrots my way and told me to man-up."

Can the older generation play? Apparently yes. Many older players have upgraded their knee replacements to Gen 3 Turbo Knees. This gives them explosive movement to some of the shorter balls. John di Falt commented, "Some show up using walkers just to get in our heads and then they carry them back to their bus when they leave." He added, "Pandora's Mildred Graber sent a laser shot into my right hip. I couldn't get my paddle on it and I couldn't get out of the way. If a younger player did that to one of them, we would not get to eat pie for the rest of the season."

The wide disparity in ages does lead to some laughs though. di Falt shared, "Max suggested that we move team communications from Twitter to something called Facebook because that's what her generation uses. Even the coach joined in the laughter about that." Max still had the last laugh when she took home five uneaten pies.

While the workout level of pickleball is lower than tennis, it is still infinitely more strenuous than a round of golf. While this is likely to change around this time next year, golf is still considered a high school sport in Ohio.

Nearby airports and passing jets have complained about the noise that pickleball matches make, but advances in technology are expected to drop the decibel level to just triple the threshold of pain. Many golf clubs are also now planning to place pickleball courts in the middle of golf courses so that they do not bother those playing sports, such as tennis.

Just to get everyone into the swing of things, OhioTennisZone will be now be renamed to OhioPickleZone.

Will all tennis courts be eliminated and/or switched to pickleball courts? Big Pickle will make that decision soon.

Happy Holiday.