IRSD board approves club’s request in growing pickleball craze

FRANKFORD – The pickleball revolution sweeping across America was born in southern Sussex County two years ago at John M. Clayton Elementary School.

In partnership with the Indian River School District with the board of education’s blessing, the First State Pickleball Club renovated the elementary school’s tennis courts into 10 dedicated pickleball courts.

“In our first year, we had a little over 263 members. In the past couple of years, we have had over 600 people become part of the pickleball club at one time or another,” said Dagsboro resident Cheryl Martin, First State Pickleball Club co-founder. “Our governing organization, USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) now has over 200,000 members. It has made a tremendously positive social and health impact on our residents as well as financial impact on local businesses, and it continues to grow. Our county does not have a lot for the active social adopts, and these pickleball courts have been a saving grace for many of them.”

With 10 dedicated courts at John M. Clayton Elementary School in Frankford, pickleball has grown in popularity in the area.

Ms. Martin, an accomplished pickleball player who has won medals in regional and national competition, addressed the school board on a June 19 agenda item request for an expanded amenity at the Clayton school courts.

The 10-member school board unanimously approved FSPC’s request for permission to install an 8-foot by 16-foot backboard on the back fencing. It would provide veteran and new pickleball players the opportunity to work on their hitting and game.

“I’ve been fortunate with my pickleball accomplishment and now I help teach and coach anyone who wants to learn pickleball,” said Ms. Martin.

On pickleball’s local growth and popularity, Ms. Martin informed the board that FSPC’s continuing ed program is filled for every session. Additionally, Ms. Martin said Vickie York, a local realtor and pickleball player, informed her that often potential clients looking to move to the area have a common question: “’Is there pickleball?’ She is happy to say we have 10 dedicated courts,” said Ms. Martin.

“This morning CBS reported on the financial impact of sports in areas across the country, and this silly-named sport – pickleball – was one which was featured. The U.S. Open, a weeklong tournament in Naples. FL., this past April brought in $1.5 million. The newscaster reported: ‘Build it and they will come,’” said Ms. Martin. “We built it with your approval and they have come. To think it all started with the help of the board and John M. Clayton, and we want to say thank you.”


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