It was billed as an introductory pickleball clinic at the Arlington Ridge Center, or the ARC. But it wasn’t the Arlington Heights Park District that organized the event. It was the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, as another of its unique offerings to increase community engagement.
And boy did it draw engagement. A whopping 110 people signed up for the clinic. Most were newcomers to the fast growing sport, but some had experience.
“The object is you gotta keep playing — and meet people; it’s very social,” said Steve McVoy, who had taken one set of lessons. “Plus, it’s all about getting exercise.”
Matt Healy, who manages the ARC, served as guide for the evening, while park district staff helped with tips on how to play. Among them was Russ Hadziabdic, director of racquet sports at Forest View Fitness & Racquet Club.
“This is the future,” he said.
Library patrons stood around the center court, watching staff members play the game, before dividing up into groups of 24 to try their hand at playing on the ARC’s six courts. Groups rotated in after five minutes, sharing paddles and laughs as they warmed up.
“I have friends that play and I’ve tried it a couple of times,” said Mary Pat Raleigh. “I just want to play more.”
Another woman waiting to go in, Laura Chase, agreed: “I have friends who play. I just think it’s a great way to keep moving and be social.”
Speaking of being social, the pickleball clinic was the latest collaboration between the library and the park district.
“We have assisted with providing staff and/or space for soccer, yoga, tennis, and golf in the past,” says Steve Neill, superintendent of recreation facilities. “We collaborate on some summer concerts, movies in the park, and we hosted their teen movie competition a few years back. We have a very good relationship, and work together to serve our community.”
Jennifer Czajka, programs and exhibits manager, describes the library’s mission as fulfilling the knowledge, information, enrichment, entertainment and cultural needs of the community. Consequently, they try to provide a wide variety of programs which reach people of all ages, backgrounds and interests..
“By working with the park district to offer an introductory level pickleball primer, we are giving the community access to try something which offers entertainment and enrichment,” Czajka said. “We chose pickleball this summer since it is such a highly popular sport and because the park district has excellent facilities for residents to continue playing.”
Both managers agree that by working together, they reach new patrons, expand access, and make a lot of people happy along the way.