Pickleball enthusiasts love their favorite sport


Lisa and Greg Koscs, front, play Carter Ledeker and Diane Schullstrom in a mixed doubles pickleball match during the Melbourne Meltdown Indoor Pickleball Championship at the Melbourne Auditorium.

Chris Bonanno

Pickleball’s popularity has been no secret to players from Brevard County. The faithful didn’t need a tournament to confirm their love for the sport.

The Melbourne Auditorium recently was transformed to host action-packed athletic competition for three days as the Melbourne Meltdown Indoor Pickleball Championship was held.

More than 40 people participated in the event, according to City of Melbourne recreation leader William Grimaldi.

Pickleball is a game that’s structured fairly similarly to tennis, except that it’s played with wooden rackets rather than tennis racquets.

Additionally, it’s played with a ball that can best be described as a little heavier wiffle ball, with slight alterations made to the ball depending on whether the sport is played outside or indoors. Players also serve underhand rather than overhand as in tennis so as to promote longer rallies.

“In our area, we’re up to probably 2,000 players (who play) in the Space Coast and Brevard County,” said USA Pickleball Ambassador Richard Duckett. “The sport is awesome especially for older folks who can’t put up with the rigors of tennis anymore and the weight of the racquet and a big-sized court.”

Among those who participated in the tournament was Viera’s Kathy McNulty, who played in the women’s doubles tournament with her sister, where they finished in third place.

“It’s been a great event,” McNulty said. “It’s been a nice facility. Everybody’s been really nice.”

While at least some participants, such as McNulty, were local, others traveled great distances to participate. Gary Bristow of Naples played mixed doubles with Carmella Holder.

“We had a good time,” Bristow said. “It’s a long ride here, but hey, this is what we like to do together as a couple.”

For some, pickleball is a sport that very quickly grew on them.

“Started about three years ago at the recommendation of somebody else and immediately was hooked,” said McNulty, who noted that she plays at the Viera Regional Park Community Center three times a week. “It’s a pretty easy game to get into if you have any kind of racquet skills or hand-eye coordination. So, we got into it pretty quickly and picked it up pretty easily.”

Duckett echoed those sentiments as well.

“The first time I played pickleball, I bought a paddle right away because I knew that I was going to love this game,” Duckett added.