The fastest growing sport in the world is making its way to Westchester. Pickleball, a mash-up of tennis, badminton and ping pong, played by 4.2 million Americans including celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Melinda Gates, is slowly gaining steam in Westchester. Pickleball instructor Manny Boya, who co-owns Yorktown Heights’ Granite Knolls Park, says 1,300-players have signed up to play there. Westchester town parks, as well as local sports facilities, are gearing up to offer pickleball lessons and game. Ready to play? Here’s how Westchester families can get their pickleball on.
Why Should Westchester Families Play Pickleball?
Pickleball is great for kids — it’s easy to learn, light-hearted and fun. It’s also timely—the game’s popularity is clearly on the rise and opportunities to play in the community and school are sure to take off. This is also a great game for aging parents: Underhanded serving reduces shoulder extension and the smaller pickleball courts require fewer steps. The paddles are lighter than a tennis racket which also lessens the strain on elbows and wrists. And if kids and parents are learning pickleball at the same time, there’s a greater chance that they will be able to play and learn together.
Is Pickleball Picking Up in Westchester?
According to Juan Arraya, the director of racquet sports at the Greenwich Country Club, New York has been oddly slow to join this national movement. Many states are passionately pursuing pickleball as the new family sport. “We are very different from Florida or South Carolina or Texas — where pickleball is exploding,” Arraya says. At this point, Westchester has too few public facilities, he explains, because of its expensive real estate and seasonal weather.
That said, Arraya insists that many clubs and parks are gearing up to build courts in the next year. “Some clubs will set up a temporary net, but we do need more courts — and the clubs are starting to understand that.”
Where to Play Pickleball in Westchester
The best place to play right now is Yorktown Heights Granite Knolls Park, which has six outdoor courts, Arraya says.
Starting in late February 2022, “Pickleball by Adam” at Ardsley’s House of Sports will offer newbie and advanced beginner classes. Adults and kids can learn basic swing techniques, strategies of the game, how to serve, plus volleying, lobbing and dinking basics. All instructors are certified by the International Federation of Pickleball.
Also, Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers just opened a new pickleball court, and Leonard Park in Mount Kisco will open a pickleball court this spring. The E. Rumbrook Park in Greenburgh has made their four platform tennis courts available for pickleball players. Rye Brook’s Crawford Park lets pickleball players use their outdoor basketball courts (with painted lines for pickleball) at certain time so check their schedule.
Finally, Arraya is relaunching his Fairfield-Westchester PB League — which started in 2021 with 44 Westchester clubs and over 1600 players. (You have to belong to a club to join the league.) This year he expects over 2,000 people to play in the league, which starts mid-May and continues through fall.
How to Find Pickleball in Westchester
Westchester resident and pickleball lover Laura E. Kelly says Westchester families should call their parks’ recreation centers. “Make sure to find out if you have to pay for a resident permit to access the courts and what the reservation and guest pass rules are (if any),” she says. Kelly also recommends players check with their local school’s continuing education programs, which may offer programs at the school or senior center gyms. “And ask around,” she says. Pickleball is often word of mouth — especially on the tennis courts.
If you want to play on a public court, you can find gear on Pickleball Central, which has a range of equipment and tips on what to choose for your needs. It might be useful to join the most active local Facebook groups: Somers NY Pickleball Community Group and Ridgefield Pickleball. Newbies can also join the national Pickleball for Beginners group on Facebook for tips and best practices.
Finally, Westchester residents should make it known to their towns and clubs that there is a need for pickleball courts and lessons, Arraya says. “We need to get the word out. It’s such a great game. We need more pickleball in Westchester.”