Kids Pick Up the Pickleball Bug

The Locke kids (from left) Charlotte, Nolan, Conrad and Jeremy are pickleballers. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

On a crisp December morning, Anthem’s pickleball courts were pretty well packed with middle-aged adults and seniors. But on one court, Emily Locke’s kids ruled. And they don’t always play by the rules. 

“We’ve made up our own game called King of the Court, said 10-year-old Charlotte Locke. “That’s my favorite thing to do while playing pickleball.” Her brother, 12-year-old Nolan, likes getting the exercise and hanging out with pickleballing friends. 

Locke’s kids are home-schooled, so community amenities like this are especially valuable. Her kids took the community center’s pickleball skills clinic. “Then we bought equipment and we all play as a family,” she said.


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Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, played with a plastic Wiffle-like ball and hard paddles. Among its attractions are the simple rules, how easy it is for anyone to learn and the low cost of entry: as little as $50 for two paddles and balls (the community center loans equipment on a first-come basis).

Stellan Stumpf, 9, loves the challenge of getting the ball over the net and the “thwack” of a good hit. His 7-year-old brother Reece thinks of the sport as a family tradition, since their grandparents introduced it to the boys when Reece was was just a couple years old.

“Pickleball is a fun sport that anyone can play and enjoy,” said their mom, Yvette Stumpf. “It’s competitive, yet fun and you all get a bit of a workout while playing. It’s a family sport, too, that people of all ages and levels can play and have fun as a family.”

For one Anthem family, the sport has become serious. Jackson Ayotte, a 17-year-old at Boulder Creek High School, won the silver medal in Junior Boys Doubles at the USA Pickleball National Championships in November. His brother Aidan, 14, and sister Abby, 12, also play. Even Josie, age 6, is starting to whack the pickleball around in the backyard.

“The pickleball bug has definitely run through our family,” said their dad, Dennis Ayotte.

Jackson Ayotte and his partner took 2nd place at the USA Pickleball National Championships. Photo courtesy Dennis Ayotte

Pickleball Skill Clinic
Anthem Community Center
41130 N. Freedom Way
623-879-3011, www.onlineatanthem.com
$70/Anthem residents; $91/Non–residents
Basic skills for beginners ages 8–12. Tuesdays, Jan. 13–Feb. 24, 6–7 p.m. Register by Jan. 10.

Youth Pickleball League
Anthem Community Center
41130 N. Freedom Way
623-879-3011, www.onlineatanthem.com
$80/Pair of Anthem residents; $104/Pair of nonresidents
Ages 10–14 welcome to play in pairs. Jan. 28–March 10 with practice on Tuesdays and games on Fridays, both 5–8 p.m. Season to be followed with a single–game elimination tournament (date to be announced). Register by Jan. 24.

The Rules of Play www.NoPhoNews.com/pickleball

Stellan Stumpf (left) and his brother Reece. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

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Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels. Email the author.

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