Area women get advanced training in pickleball

Jimmy O'Hearn - or Jimmy O for short - has been coaching pickle ball for about four years, and he figures he's instructed more than 700 people in the up-and-coming sport over that time.
Matt DeYoung
Aug 23, 2012

 

For the first time ever, he recently completed an advanced pickle ball class.

A group of eight women completed the class, which went above and beyond the basics of the sport.

“About 3 years ago, I decided at some point I wanted to teach an advanced class, and I had several people ask me about it,” he said. “I teach various things from fast twitch muscle fiber to core presence to how to hit the ball with top spin, side spin and back spin. They really progressed.

Jimmy O, a decorated senior Olympian, has played tennis and racquetball for years. He said he’s now ditched those sports in favor of pickelball, which is similar to tennis except the court is much smaller, as are the paddles used instead of racquets. The ball is a small whiffle ball, which takes a tremendous amount of spin and can be greatly affected by the wind.

“I was introduced to the sport about 5 years ago when I watched some men playing pickleball in Muskegon,” Jimmy O said. “My first thought was, this is kind of a soft game. It makes a funny sound when they hit the ball. Some are using wood paddles, some are using graphite. I wasn’t really turned on by it.

“Then I was invited to play by some people who knew I was involved in sports. When I started playing, I played tennis 3-4 times a week, racquetball three times a week. Now I only play pickleball.”

Most of the classes He’s taught are in the Tri-Cities area, although Jimmy O has traveled as far as White Lake, Coopersville and Grand Rapids to host classes.

The sport is especially popular with seniors, but there are also pickeball teams at area high schools.

“Seniors, your knees start going, your hips start going, your reaction time starts going, so they migrate from tennis or racquetball to pickleball because you don’t have the lateral movement that you have in tennis or racquetball,” he said. “Our No. 1 concern in the sport is now do we attract younger people into the sport, and one way is through the Meijer State Games.

“That’s our No. 1 concern is how do we make it attractive to young people.”

One way is through older generations introducing the sport to youngsters.

“Grandparents for years have been coming up to me and saying, ‘This is the first sport I’ve been able to play with my grandkids,’” Jimmy O said.
 

 

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