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Longboat Observer reporter contracts a case of 'pickleball fever'

Observer reporter Carter Weinhofer returns a ball.
Observer reporter Carter Weinhofer returns a ball.
Courtesy image
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I gave into peer pressure and now might have a new addiction. 


From the moment I started at the Longboat Observer, I heard about the growing popularity of the sport, and how the courts at Bayfront Park are often packed with pickleball players. After several months, I decided it was time to see what the sport actually was and get some tips for beginners from local pros. 

I met certified instructors Terri Noyes and Elizabeth Apmann at the Bayfront Park courts around 3 p.m. Dec. 1. In the afternoons, the park is less busy. 

One of the first questions they asked was about my athletic background. Rugby, yes, but I told them I hadn’t had any serious paddle sport experience. 

They assured me I was already off to a great start, and that the hand-eye coordination skills I had picked up in rugby would help on the courts. 

Apmann said the main pickleball injuries are to the eyes — if a player gets hit with a paddle or ball — and the calves. The most common injuries she sees are from when players walk backwards and pull something or trip. Never go backwards, she said.

Terri Noyes held a pickleball workshop Nov. 13 at The Paradise Center.
Photo by Petra Rivera

One of Noyes’ spare paddles would be mine for the afternoon. She taught me how to properly hold the paddle. Not too tight, and more toward the bottom of the handle, like a hammer, she said. 

Next, it was time to learn how to hit the ball. It seemed simple enough at first, there’s the forehand and the backhand. 

Once that was established, Apmann said the only way to really learn the game was to play it. So we did. 

We were still waiting for one of Apmann and Noyes’ friends to get to the park to play a full match, but we started with just the three of us to learn the mechanics.

It was overwhelming at first. Serving was one of the concepts I struggled with: who stays back, how you need to serve to the opposite side and rule that requires the ball to bounce on both sides of the court before it can be hit mid-air. 

And then the scoring really threw me for a loop. Just saying the score out loud at the start of each point was confusing, but I eventually understood at the end of my lesson. Before each point, the server calls out the server score, receiver score and (for doubles only) the server number of one or two.

Players can only score points when their team has the serve. That was one of the strangest rules to me, but it's a rule that really keeps the game going and adds to the competitive nature. 

Soon there were all sorts of sayings I had never heard in an athletic context. 

“Stay out of the kitchen.”

“Down the middle solves the riddle.” 

I forgot to mention to them that I played baseball growing up, because when Apmann said to me, “You’re up,” I thought she meant it was my turn to serve. She really meant it was my turn to move up to the kitchen line. 

“Keep your eye on the ball,” was a piece of advice that transferred from baseball. 

Once our fourth player arrived, the real fun began. 

Did I win a game with the veteran Apmann by my side? No. But by our last game, the difference between scores had dwindled.

Carter Weinhofer and Terri Noyes play a point on the pickleball court.
Courtesy image 

Noyes told me if I stayed at it and kept playing, I would excel in no time. The main thing I realized I need to focus on is hitting the forehand more than the backhand, which seemed more instinctive for me. 

Did I find myself perusing online stores for pickleball paddles that night? Yes. 


Why pickleball?

Noyes said pickleball, to her, is three main things: fun, friends and fitness. 

It’s a growing sport, she said, and a great way to meet new people. During open play hours — the best times to go to Bayfront Park, she said — anyone can drop his or her paddle in a slot and ask to join a game. 

“For people that are beginning, it’s a great way to meet people, and that’s why people like it,” Noyes said. 

The crowd at Bayfront is a bit older, but Noyes said other places like G.T. Bray Recreation Center has superb courts and often younger players. 

The game, Noyes said, is great for people as they age. 

“As people get older, it’s hard for them to find activities that are this enjoyable. It’s very social, people make great friends out of it,” Noyes said. 

But more than staying fit, Noyes said one of the best parts of the sport is the competitiveness that sparks something in older players. 

“It’s a great reawakening for that fun part of your life,” Noyes said. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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