Tennis, Pickleball Players Learning to Co-Exist

Tuesday March 07, 2023

Holly Bouchard holds a pickleball paddle and Scott Blackman holds a tennis racquet at the Newburyport Racquet Club

NEWBURYPORT – For much of its five-year history here, pickleball seemed like a Nor’easter brewing as tennis players, neighbors of pickleball courts and even the Pioneer League of baseballers and softballers at Lower Atkinson Common wished this new game would go back where it came from.
But Mike Perrota, manager of the Newburyport Tennis Club (NTC), says relations are changing. Although it has not always been so, he said, “It’s been great for us. We’re pretty happy with it.”
The reason: pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the country, brings to the club more players, many of them different from those who play tennis, who book indoor courts that would otherwise go unused.
Pickleball is a racquet sport that has been dubbed ping pong on a tennis court. Invented by three men to amuse bored children, pickleball is played with a solid rectangular paddle hitting a plastic ball with holes over a 36-inch-high net.
A pickleball court is about a third the size of a tennis court, and one tennis court can hold two pickleball courts. A tennis court can be made into a pickleball court with a portable net and about $5 in tape for the lines, Perrota said.
The indoor tennis club in Newburyport and the New England Pickleball Club in Rye, NH, are the only pickleball clubs in the area.
If a court at NTC is not booked for tennis, the staff assigns it to pickleball, and two or four of the NTC’s six indoor courts are dedicated to pickleball on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Fees collected by the club run about the same as those collected for tennis, which run about $60 per hour.
The owners — husbands and wives, Daryl Colden and Kristin Tallman, Laura Goldberg and Gary Gastman — are “very happy” with the NTC pickleball program, Perrota said. “We’ve heard no complaints.”
NTC court usage has jumped from about 70 percent to near full capacity thanks to pickleball.
In the warm weather, the NTC also offers outdoor pickleball. The club resurfaced an unused parking lot on Low Street first into three courts and now into four high-quality pickleball courts, complete with tables under umbrellas for waiting players to watch the pickleball action.
The club, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall, also opens un-booked courts inside in the summer.
Tennis players here and across the country have not been happy with pickleball, which grew last year by an estimated 40 percent and now is played by about 5 million players. There have been reports across the country of angry exchanges between tennis players and pickleballers and even some vandalism of pickleball courts.
The Dink, a pickleball website, reported that an unnamed person printed bumper stickers which read: “Tennis players against pickleball, get your wiffle balls off our courts.”
Pickleball rankles tennis players for several reasons. It takes over tennis courts that too often are already in short supply.
John Tracy, a popular tennis coach, has begun teaching pickleball because, he said, “there are not enough courts (to teach tennis).”
In Newburyport, two dilapidated courts at the Nock Middle School were resurfaced last year to provide much needed courts, particularly for the high school teams. The city is raising the funds to resurface the four Atkinson Park courts, which are in very poor condition.
Pickleball also draws opponents because it is noisy. When a solid paddle hits a plastic ball, it makes a much louder sound than a tennis racquet hitting a fuzzy rubber ball. Indoors, that sound bounces off hard surfaces and can be heard throughout the building.
And tennis players, true to the gentlemanly tradition, tend to be quieter than pickleballers on the court. Angry shouts at a missed tennis shot are frowned on.
Pickleballers, playing doubles and standing close to one another, often hold lengthy discussions between points.
“Pickleball is a highly social sport,” Perrota said, a big part pickleball’s appeal.
The noise of pickleball makes concentration for tennis players difficult. Perrota is considering adding more noise buffers in the club.
Neighbors close to pickleball courts complain about the noise even outside. Residents near the Perkins Playground convinced the city to limit pickleball being played on the one tennis court near the playground.
When the city proposed converting a basketball court at Lower Atkinson Park into four pickleball courts, neighbors on Merrimac Street and the Pioneer League families penned a scathing letter in opposition.
The city is considering allowing pickleball on the tennis court at Cashman Park largely because it has few nearby neighbors.
Perrota said the pickleball community is aware of the noise issues and are working on developing a quieter ball and paddle. There is probably nothing that can be done about the loud conversations between points.
But most observers believe pickleball is not going anywhere. Hollywood celebrities are taking up the sport. And professional pickleball tournaments can now be viewed on the Tennis Channel alongside Wimbledon and the U.S. Open tennis tournaments.
For more information on tennis and pickleball, visit For pickleball, register online by joining STACK TEAM APP via your phone or computer. Search for NTC Pickleball.

Support Local Businesses

Priced Right Junk Removal

Local Forecast

Subscribe To Receive Our Newspaper Every Wednesday Morning FREE

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and newspaper within your emails.

You have Successfully Subscribed!