Q & A with pickleball aficionado George Gerson
Grand Junction’s George Gerson taught Rachel Sauer and me how to play pickleball at the end of June. He answered a few questions about the sport, its popularity in Grand Junction and how to get started.
Melinda Mawdsley: What turned you on to pickleball? Were you terrible when you started?
George Gerson: Seven years ago I received a phone call from a friend by the name of Nancy Friedman who asked me to come play pickleball. I had never heard of the game and the name itself kind of turned me off. But because Nancy and her husband are friends, my wife and I met them at Lincoln Park and started playing on the one pickleball court that was set up on an existing tennis court. The game is addictive, and I’ve been playing ever since. I am less terrible now than I was seven years ago.
Mawdsley: How do you describe it to people like Rachel and me who know nothing about the sport?
Gerson: The game can best be described as a combination of tennis and pingpong. It plays a lot like tennis using paddles, a whiffle ball and a net. The court is smaller than a tennis court but because the whiffle ball doesn’t bounce very much a player must run to the ball rather than wait for the ball to come to the player. Just about anyone can play this game and it can be extremely competitive or just played at a recreational level.
Mawdsley: What’s the best way for a beginner to get into it?
Gerson: The Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department offers clinics during the spring and summer months and also provides paddles and balls that may be checked out by those who want to try the sport but are not yet ready to purchase a paddle and balls. We have eight outdoor courts: four at Lincoln Park and four at Pineridge Park (in The Ridges). We also have three indoor courts at the Lincoln Park Barn that are in use during the winter months. In contrast to other sports, pickleball has developed as a drop-in sport where players show up individually and play with whoever is on the courts. For a player who has not attended a clinic the best place to start is at Pineridge, where most of our beginners and recreational players play; most pickleball players are happy to teach a new player the rules of the game. Anyone interested in finding out more about the sport and the local playing times should contact the Parks and Recreation Department office located at Lincoln Park, or just stop by the Lincoln Park or Pineridge Park courts where we play seven days a week.
Mawdsley: How do you put so much spin on your serve? That was very frustrating.
Gerson: Practice, practice, practice.
Mawdsley: Who’s the best pickleball player in the world? Any idea? Is it most popular in America or some other country?
Gerson: We do not yet have world championships in the sport, though it is being played in more and more countries. The current national champions are Scott Moore in the Men’s Senior Division and his son, Daniel Moore, in the Men’s Open Division. They are from Colorado Springs, and we were happy to have them in Grand Junction last year for a clinic. Scott played in a tournament in Grand Junction last year (and won) and his wife played in the recent Grand Junction Tournament and took first place in her division.