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Pickleball engages people of all ages at Butlerville Days’ second annual tournament

Aug 28, 2017 09:55AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Beginner players start their first tournament match. This year was Butlerville Days’ second annual tournament. (Jessica Parcell/City Journals)

Jessica Parcell | j.parcell@mycityjournals.com    


Hidden amongst the carnival-like setup of rides, food trucks and booths at Cottonwood Heights’ Butlerville Days was another attraction: a pickleball tournament.

Pickleball is a fast-growing sport in the Beehive State. Though the game has been around since the mid-1960s, Nick Galanis — a pickleball instructor and competitive pickleball athlete — said it’s only recently begun to pick up popularity.

“Let’s call it a relatively new sport that’s taken off in the Salt Lake County,” Galanis said.

Galanis has been playing competitively for the past four years. The mixed-doubles tournament allows teams of men and women to play against each other. Expertise levels varied from only a few months experience to a several years.

The tournament began with the 2/5 division, beginners who had been playing the sport for only a few months and were still developing shots and technique, and moved on to the 5/0 division, people Galanis said are technically considered professional players at the top of their game.

Since pickleball is not as aggressive a sport as its cousins tennis or racquetball, it is not so physically demanding, Galanis said the game attracts people of all ages — from the very young to the very old.  

“We have everything from juniors — 15 years old — all the way up to people that are in their 70s playing,” Galanis said. 

The second annual tournament has grown from 28 teams to this year’s 45 teams, a growth rate that Galanis says is phenomenal. 

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn H. Cullimore said they selected pickleball as a sport to host because they wanted to be different, and there’s been an increase in demand for the sport since they built the pickleball courts around the city’s recreation center a couple of years ago.

“Since we built these pickleball courts they have just been in constant use,” Cullimore said. “We recognize that there is a real interest in this particular sport in our community so we wanted to foster that.”

He said they are hoping to be able to build at least double the number of courts they have right now, because the demand is so great. Cullimore said he does not play himself, though those in the sport have been trying to get him to learn how to play.

Cullimore also said that since the pickleball courts have been built, the response from the community has been more from those of “mature years” than those of “younger years,” but with such a rapid growth in popularity, they have seen more youth and young adults involve themselves in the sport. This year the tournament consisted of more people in their 20s and 30s than before.

“The nice thing about pickleball is you can do it even when you’re my age,” Cullimore said with a chuckle.   

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