WILLIAMSBURG — Pickleball has seen a steady rise in popularity within the Historic Triangle for the past couple of years, and that trend continues as 2023 approaches.
The Williamsburg Pickleball Autumn League, organized by local Pickleball enthusiasts Blake Pembroke and Terry McCray, is in the midst of its inaugural season. The newly-organized league has recorded 124 players and 27 teams.
“There was a fair amount of interest,” Pembroke said in an interview with WYDaily. “Once we decided to start the league it was amazing. We went from 0 people to 70 people in a couple of hours.”
The 27 Pickleball teams consist of active players from throughout the region, with players hailing from Toano, Williamsburg, James City County, York County, Gloucester, Newport News, and Virginia Beach.
The new league offers three divisions for players to compete, according to McCray:
- Women’s Doubles
- Men’s Doubles
- Mixed Doubles
The team captain for each team communicates with each other to help organize a date and location for their respective teams to meet up. After the two teams play against each other, all the stats and scores are recorded and then published on williamsburgpickleball.org.
The area has approximately 77 courts the league allows for use by teams, according to Pembroke. A requirement is that the games must be played at one of those courts. The organizers didn’t want local players traveling far to Richmond, or beyond, to play games for the local league.
“It’s amazing to see the growth in the number of players and skill levels since I started playing four years ago,” said Hope Venus, an active player in the league. “Leagues are a good way to get local friendly competition and have fun, all while making us better players collectively. It’s also a great way for new players to meet other picklers, strengthen their skills, and make new friends. The league games have been fun and competitive also.”
The Williamsburg Pickleball Autumn League recently finished the third week out of its six-week schedule.
Players use paddles to play, and the gameis described as very similar to badminton, ping-pong, or tennis. It is usually played in a tennis-style doubles match and offers a recreational, physical, and social activity, which likely has contributed to its rising popularity, says Pembroke.
“In pickleball, since the match typically lasts maybe between 15 and 20 minutes each, you can play, over the course of an hour or two, with 16, 18, or 20 different people,” said Pembroke. “That’s one of the appeals to it.”
“One of the reasons we started the league was that there is a lot of interest,” added Pembroke. “A lot of interest has been shown that people want to play not just in their own communities but people want to play with the overall community in general. So we started the league as a way for people to sort of get out of their HOAs and to start playing with people throughout the community.”
Players are playing for personal achievement and community glory, Pembroke said. Based on the initial interest in the autumn league, both Both Pembroke and McCray already have begun planning the Williamsburg Pickleball Spring League.
There are no costs to sign up and participate in the new pickleball league. There are also no age limits and there’s room for players of all skill levels and groups, said McCray.
Another local resource to learn more about Pickleball is pickleburg.com, organized by Jeff Anthony.