By Michael Huppe
Ever heard of pickleball?
Well, anyone that’s been near the South Street mall and courts on a Saturday morning, between 9 a.m. and noon, has felt the excitement in the air of a game that has taken the neighborhood by storm.
For more than two years, local pickleball players have gathered to play one of the fastest growing sports in the nation – as well as in JP. Pickleball is a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but it can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.
A few years ago, Karen McCormack, with her business partner Colleen Scanlan (co-owners of McCormack & Scanlan Real Estate), wanted to learn more about the game with the funny name.
McCormack reached out to Peter Sullivan, a local pickleball ambassador, and for the following three Saturdays, the two chalked pickleball courts on the South Street tennis courts, and Peter taught McCormack and friends the game. From there, McCormack took her game and the sport’s local profile to another level by providing nets and paddles for use by all who wish to try the sport, offering not only weekly play and beginner instruction but, more importantly, community fun for all.
These days, 50 or more picklers show up on Saturdays between May and September to the South Street courts to learn and play.
“It’s amazing what Karen has developed here in Jamaica Plain,” said one resident. “JP Pickleball is the highlight of my weekend and I never heard of the game a year ago.”
Pickleball in Jamaica Plain has grown exponentially in the past year.
“We came over to JP a year ago,” said another local resident, “and because of Karen and this incredibly welcoming community, we’ve almost become addicted to the game. We are now watching instructional pickleball videos on YouTube, bought our own paddles and net, and have even played in a couple of local tournaments. But the highlight of our week is when we play in JP. It’s the people. It’s Karen’s leadership and generosity. Win or lose, all we do is laugh and have fun. It’s amazing the number of great people in our lives we wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for Karen McCormack and JP Pickleball.”
On Saturday, July 27, USAPA Ambassadors Peter Sullivan and Craig Corcoran presented Karen McCormack with the Boston Pickleball ‘Pickler of Distinction Award’ at the South Street courts in recognition of her generosity in establishing playing opportunities and creating a welcoming environment, as well as for promoting the game of Pickleball in the Boston community.
In addition to promoting the game in JP, with Saturdays being one of – if not the best – attended gathering in the greater Boston area, McCormack has lent her knowledge and experience to help other nearby communities establish games, including teaching a nearby clinic for beginners this winter. McCormack has also elevated her own game from a beginner less than three years ago to a formidable tournament player, having won medals in tournaments in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“What Karen has created for the community in JP is just phenomenal,” said one die-hard regular pickler. “I just jogged by one Saturday two years ago to see what the game looked like, and within five minutes Karen saw me watching and met me outside the fence, demanding I give it a try, with all the warmth and encouragement that I now know is just who she is, and what she gives weekly to all who show up to play.”
All those 18+ interested in experiencing pickleball for themselves are encouraged to stop by the South Street Mall courts on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon through September. There is a designated beginners’ court and instruction from 9 to 10 a.m., with equipment provided by McCormack & Scanlan Real Estate. Get ready to laugh and make friends.