Hoboken is a town that thrives on community and bringing people together. This can be seen with the various organizations, clubs, and activities always going on around town. Yet another example of this has recently popped up in town and it is all the craze: Pickleball, a tennis-like sport that can be played by people of all ages and athletic ability. Every day, dozens of residents gather downtown to play this sport that is known by many but not commonly played. We connected with John Milius and Grant Sahag, two avid pickleball players, Hoboken residents, and the major forces behind bringing the sport to the Mile Square. Read on to learn more about the game and how to get involved.
What is Pickleball?
^ The new pickleball court in Hoboken
According to USA Pickleball, the official pickleball organization in the country, pickleball is “a fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. [It is] Played indoors or outdoors on a badminton size court and [uses] a slightly modified tennis net.”
John shares that the scoring is similar to volleyball. He goes on to describe the game’s setup and competitive attributes saying, “Most people play doubles, which can help limit having to cover the full court and there is a lot of focus of playing more at the net (though you must be behind a certain line (called the kitchen line) to hit it out of the air at the net. The game can be for anyone. You can make it as competitive as you like. Some love to compete while others do it to have fun and move around.”
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While pickleball was founded back in 1965 in Washington State, Grant has been credited with introducing the game to a handful of Hoboken residents back in 2015. Interest grew from that initial introduction.
“We played it a few times in an indoor gym. In 2017, we picked the game back up and began playing outdoors in any space we could find. That is really when the game took off,” Grant said After working with the city of Hoboken, the pickleball sanctioned lines were painted on the pavement of 64 Harrison Street on August 19th. Both John and Grant express their gratitude to the city.
Coming to Town
^ The former Northwest Park (currently under construction)
When thinking back on how pickleball in Hoboken came to be formally set up, Grant says “it was the perfect sequence of events.” In 2017, a mini-golf course was slated to be built at the Northwest Park in town. At the same time that this project fell through, six pickleball players made the move from playing at Columbus Park to Northwest Park with hand-drawn chalk lines on the open pavement.
Even though working with supportive community leaders such as former Parks Director Leo Pelligrini and Hoboken Director of Environmental Services Jen Gonzalez, getting a permanent space was no easy task. Through the support of these individuals and the pickleball community, the courts at 64 Harrison Street were made a possibility.
Who Can Play?
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The game of Pickleball is set up for all ages to play and enjoy. There is space available for those playing for the first time ever and those who play daily. No matter the player’s age or athletic ability, pickleball is open to all, and Hudson Pickleball aims to include all who are interested.
Although not an “official” organization, Hudson Pickleball was set up to help promote and teach the sport and organize games as players want. When visiting the courts, players are often greeted by newcomers and veterans alike. Hudson Pickleball generally is present on Saturdays to assist with rotation on courts and setting up games.
However, the community in Hoboken is so strong and friendly that players often are respectful of those waiting on the sidelines for a game. Both John and Grant share how supportive and accommodating the city has been to open space for the game. The organization encourages the community to be on the lookout for any town meetings on park layouts and public facilities in town to continue to voice the desire for pickleball in Hoboken.
The courts on Harrison Street are open to the public daily from 8AM to 8PM. On Saturdays, Hudson Pickleball tries to organize games from 8:30-11:30a with balls and nets available for those who do not have their own. To keep up with pickleball in Hoboken, follow @hudsonpickleball on Instagram for court updates and in cases of inclement weather.