Pickleball Club provides a space for both amateurs and dedicated pickleball players to practice their skills and learn from each other. Club president Andrew Burdette is pictured above. Photo by Andrew Buckley.
JACK WILLIAMS | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the Butler community are achieving extraordinary things, both on and off campus. From first-years to alumni to administrators and back, each Bulldog has a story to tell. Read on to discover the next of our Bulldogs of Butler through a Q&A style interview.
The cheerful “pop” of a pickleball paddle followed by joyous court-side conversation can be heard all over the country, whether on the news or the courts by Apartment Village. The sport has grown from a Physical Well-Being (PWB) class into a quintessential campus activity that amateur and expert players alike can share. Butler University’s Pickleball Club has capitalized on the sport’s popularity and accessibility. Club president and founder Andrew Burdette, a sophomore biology major, and faculty advisor Dr. Lisa Farley, an associate professor in the college of education, shared about their love for the sport and how students can get involved.
THE BUTLER COLLEGIAN: Could you describe the game of pickleball for people who may not have played before?
ANDREW BURDETTE: Pickleball is like tennis, except you use a different racket and a different ball and it’s on a smaller court. It’s done on what actually is the lines and regulations for a badminton court. You use a plastic ball and wooden or plastic paddles instead of a racket [with strings]. As a result, the ball moves a little differently than in tennis. For the most part, though, it’s the same rules. You get one bounce per side.
TBC: How did you start playing pickleball?
AB: I’ve watched tennis for a long time, and I wanted to get into [playing] it. I worked at a country club, and there were pickleball courts right next to where I was working. I texted one of my friends who played tennis and [said], “Hey, have you ever played pickleball? I think it’d be easier to pick up than tennis.” I started playing a little over a year ago, in between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I played all summer. [Pickleball] is easy to learn but hard to be good at. [A beginner can still] be a decent player, play games and just have fun.
LISA FARLEY: I started officially playing in 2016, but we’ve been teaching pickleball at Butler since 2010. Dr. Mindy Welch, one of my colleagues in the college of education, brought pickleball as a sport to campus when it was not [well] known. We were teaching students how to teach pickleball [at elementary and high schools] back in 2010. Dr. Welch and Professor [Art] Furman are the ones who decided to start the PWB pickleball class. [I became involved when] Professor Furman said to me, “Hey, a bunch of us are going to go play pickleball. Do you and your husband want to play?” We started playing as a group and really caught the bug from there; it’s been seven years [now].
Photo by Andrew Buckley.
TBC: Why do you think there’s been such a spike in pickleball’s popularity?
AB: Well, it’s the fastest-growing sport in America. I think that the general media coverage of it helped me [recruit members at the Butler club fair], Block Party. You can play [pickleball] even if you don’t think you’re an athletic person. It’s not too much running. It’s a great way for people who aren’t usually playing sports to play [them]. It keeps people active. The new courts also drew a lot of people in; they wanted to see and experience the sport. A big part of the club is that it’s for beginners. We provide equipment, so you don’t have to invest too much [in order to play].
LF: The meteoric rise to pickleball happened partly because of the low barrier to entry. It doesn’t cost very much to try, as long as there’s a place to try it and somebody to teach you. It’s really quick to pick up — you can play a game within the first hour of learning about the sport. People get to compete in it quickly. I think unlike other sports, [people of any ability] get a chance to enjoy this sport as much as high-level pros. There are going to be groups [of every skill level] on the court. You get a chance to be as competitive and socially active as you want to be. And it happens so quickly. As a physical educator, I am giddy that all these people are picking up the sport because they’re out being physically active.
TBC: What do you hope to accomplish during your time with the club, and where would you like to see it go in the next few years?
AB: The biggest thing that I wanted to accomplish was getting [the club] up and running. Right now we have a consistent 25 to 30 people that show up. We’ll have all four courts taken up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the future, I’d really like to expand the club into a competitive and noncompetitive section, like [in club] tennis. I know that areas nearby have people playing competitive pickleball. There’s a tournament in Westfield that we’re trying to put a team together for. There [are] all sorts of things that you can do with competitive pickleball. Because it’s such a booming [sport] right now, I want to get into that [early on]. I’d love to see pickleball as a NCAA sport [as well], but I don’t think that will happen before I graduate.
LF: We had a team enter the National Collegiate Pickleball Championships in January, which is exciting in the first year of the club. My drive to get the team [entered] this year was because from here on out, it will always require winning a regional tournament to get entry, but this year, they skipped that [requirement].
I want to see the club expand. We desperately need more courts. I need the university to understand that painting pickleball lines on the Tennis Bubble courts is not detrimental to the tennis team. [Some tennis teams play] their matches at West Indy Racquet Club, and all of those courts have pickleball lines on them. We could have an additional eight [indoor] pickleball courts in the Bubble. This would also take pressure off of [the Health and Recreation Center (HRC) staff], because we could move pickleball classes and club practices to the Bubble.
Photo by Andrew Buckley.
TBC: How can students get involved in pickleball?
AB: The club is two nights a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. We have a $5 membership fee that will be used to get better paddles and maybe throw a tournament with some prizes. You can always rent paddles from the HRC and go play in the courts too [using your Butler ID]. But I think the club is a good way to [start] because you get to meet a ton of people, play against different skill levels, play against different types of players. If you want to get better, I think that’s the best way to do it.
LF: Students can go on Engage and request to join. The $5 fee helps pay for equipment and means you get a little skin in the game. We do not want to price people out — we want the face of pickleball to look like every face we have on campus. [That means] everything from wheelchair accessible through our Special Olympic athletes to [accessibility for] every race, gender and age. Students can reach out to Andrew as well. If students want to play pickleball but don’t know how, they can take the PWB. There are a variety of ways to get involved in pickleball in the community too. I’m the president of the Indy Pickleball Club, [which is] a nonprofit that helps spread pickleball throughout the greater Indianapolis area. It talks about pickleball across the greater Indianapolis area and where to play. I had a student in a PWB pickleball class last year who decided that pickleball is his future. He has since started playing in the community in a variety of areas, in tournaments and on local courts in Broad Ripple and Ellenberger Park. People can take [pickleball] as far as they want.
Students interested in joining Pickleball Club can find more information on Engage or reach out to club president Andrew Burdette. The club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and encourages students of any skill level to join.