The USA Pickleball Association featured BYU in its official magazine for being one of the first colleges to offer pickleball as an accredited course.
Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It can be played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-size court with a modified tennis net. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball.
Scott and Kim Rozier are the current instructors for the class and they say they love seeing pickleball’s growth at BYU. They were approached by Pickleball Central to be featured in the September-October 2019 issue.
“BYU has always been cutting edge with a lot of things, and the fact that they are accepting a sport that used to only be considered a sport for older people is awesome,” Kim said. “Now the top 10 players in the world are in their twenties, and two of them went to BYU.”
Michael Sheffield, a BYU graduate student and founder of BYU’s pickleball club, helped establish the groundwork for pickleball at BYU. What started as a club soon exploded in size and popularity.
BYU recreation facilities operations manager Connie Todd worked closely with Sheffield to expand pickleball at BYU. They started by modifying the badminton equipment to serve for pickleball. They would put down tape on the badminton court to start the pickleball club. When it came time to resurface the BYU Tennis courts, BYU agreed to add pickleball lines on four of the outdoor tennis courts.
In just three years, pickleball’s reach has expanded dramatically, and now, students of all different skills levels are able to come together and enjoy the sport.
“It’s very athletic and social all at the same time. You don’t have to be a phenomenal athlete to play. It is way more fun than it is intimidating, and it’s attracting everybody now,” Todd said.
Pickleball is also unique because it allows men and women to play on the same level. Kim said she loves that women can be as strong as men in pickleball.
The interest and growth led BYU to establish a pickleball class. Last year was the first year pickleball was offered as a 0.5 credit class, and the demand has only increased. There are currently 34 students in the class, and there were 100 people on the waiting list at the beginning of the semester.
“The demand is certainly there. It’s such an easy sport to pick up, so you start having fun at the very beginning,” Scott said. “Because of the close proximity of the game, it allows you to have a more social experience with those you are playing with, and there are a lot of health benefits.”
The class is full of students across a broad spectrum of ability and experience. The instructors set it up so the students play against opponents based on their ability, that way the students are evenly matched.
“It makes the games a lot more entertaining because if you play with people that are way better than you or worse than you, it isn’t as fun,” student Grant Trout said. “I think it’s sick to be able to take it as a class at BYU. I honestly wish it was every day, but it’s awesome being able to start my day twice a week with pickleball.”
Senior Sylvia Magleby had never played pickleball before signing up for the class. She said she was surprised by how much fun she was able to have with a sport she had never tried before.
Another aspect of the class is that students are able to interact with others from all different areas of BYU. BYU professor Scott Sampson decided to take this class as a break from his work in the Marriott School of Business.
“I’d go crazy if I don’t get some physical activity. I saw some people playing pickleball. There were some young people and some older people, and the older people were beating the younger people, so I thought that I had to give it a try,” Sampson said. “I love being in the business school, but I have to get out of the Tanner Building every so often. Pickleball is my joy every Tuesday and Thursday morning.”
Kim said she loves teaching pickleball with her husband and loves seeing the students in their class students apply little techniques and strategies they learn.
“Watching their eyes light up when they can do it and being able to watch them be excited about it is so much fun,” Kim said.
Scott said he hopes to add another class this coming Winter 2020 semester and continue to grow the program.