Two years ago, you couldn’t even buy a pickleball racquet around here. 
Now, there are leagues, lessons and tournaments at local tennis clubs. Cities across the county are considering adding courts to their community parks. And even private developments — like Pioneer Ridge by Del Web in North Ridgeville — are getting in on the action. 
“It’s the fastest growing sport in the country,” says local player Debbie Furhmann, who launched her own website,, two years ago to address the demand for racquets. “It’s very social and you can pick it up very quickly. Within an hour you can be playing.”
Pickleball started in 1965 on an island off the coast of Washington state when a few friends were bored and invented a new game using their lowered badminton net, a whiffle ball and some wood paddles they made. 
The court, at 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, fits on one side of a tennis court. Unlike tennis, you must serve underhand. The ball has less bounce and there is a 7-foot no-volley zone called “the kitchen,” extending from the net. You can only score when your team is serving and the first team to get 11 points wins.
People who have played racquet sports pick the game up effortlessly, but just about anyone can play the game decently well with just a bit of practice.
“It’s great for the small kids,” says Dan Hreha, the owner of North Ridge Tennis and Golf Club in North Ridgeville. His 6-year-old son could rally the first time he played.
Tennis — as some of us know all too well — can take years of lessons to even become a mediocre player. What’s more, it’s not always all that fun.
“Tennis can be so competitive,” Furhmann says. “And people are always beating themselves up.”
Rich Abston is one of only two certified pickleball instructors in Ohio. He gives lessons at Avon Oaks Tennis Center in Avon and at a handful of other clubs in Northeast Ohio.
About six years ago, some guys he knew kept hounding him to play. “It’s not that enticing to hear someone say, ‘Do you want to play pickleball?’” Abston says. “But they beat the pants off of me. And I fell in love with the sport.”
Abston has a few tips for new players: Get your serve in, keep your unforced errors down and try to keep the ball low.
The game can be as intense as you want it to be, but it should always be a good time. “It’s hard to get mad when you’re playing with a whiffle ball,” he laughs.

Where to Pickle 

• Avon Oaks Tennis Center offers open play on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, as well as beginner and intermediate lessons on Mondays. Private lessons are also available. 32300 Detroit Road, Avon, 440-575-1156,
• Fox Creek Family Tennis offers open play on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as socials throughout the winter on Friday and Saturday nights. 
5445 Beavercrest Drive, Lorain, 
• North Ridge Tennis and Golf Club offers open play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and practice drills on Wednesdays and Fridays. 5475 Mills Creek Lane,
North Ridgeville, 440-327-2114,
• The city of North Ridgeville is adding courts to South Central Park. Check the city’s website for info on a tournament planned for October. 7565 Avon Belden Road, North Ridgeville, 440-353-0860,