NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On the tennis courts of Cedar Hill Park in Madison on Saturday, a collection of pops, laughs and shuffling shoes rang out from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
But what might at first sound like a typical game of tennis doesn't quite look that way. The game is called pickleball, and it's played with half of the court used for a tennis match, meaning twice as many participants can play at a time.
"Pickleball is kind of tennis, badminton and ping pong, all kind of related," said event organizer Michael Smits. "It's played on a smaller version of a tennis court. It started out with an older generation and has really taken shape into a younger generation, but really at the end of the day it's just where everyone can come out and have fun."
Smits is an organizer of Dinkville, a group founded by Landon Hallam, dedicated to the game.
"It's a new organization that we've created to get community together for pickleball," Smits explained.
Dinkville's website says the organization offers multiple options for play: men's singles/doubles, women's singles/doubles, mixed doubles and mini games — like king of the court, ladder play or round robin.
"We organized this event here at Cedar Hill, just with some local players and things like that. On Monday and Wednesdays it's open play for anyone that wants to come to Hendersonville, 5:45 to 9:30, and then we're also trying to get it out in Gallatin on their brand new six courts that they have out there; we're trying to organize some open play as well," Smits said.
The game, as Smits described it, is not a complex one.
"The only thing you need is a paddle, a ball, and then these portable nets that we have. There's two pickleball courts on one tennis court."
But he assures anyone interested in the game that simple does not mean easy.
"It gets really intense, especially when you've got the hand battles where the ball's going back and forth. It's a lot of concentration, you know, a lot of focus on where... the ball's coming off the paddle, and things like that. But, you know, that's what you live for," said Smits.
He's been playing professionally in recent years, but began playing three years ago after learning about the game from people he met at the Nashville Hot Chicken Festival. Now, it's become quite a passion for him.
"I congregate to wherever I can play pickleball. [It's] not really for everyone — some people get annoyed at the sound, but the sound just brings excitement, joy, fun, energy" said Smits. "About three years ago when I started playing, I weighed about 45 pounds more than I am now. So, going on a little diet and playing pickleball five to six days a week, I was able to lose 45 pounds and get in shape, really, to where I want to be."
Dinkville is still a very new organization. The group hosted its first organized play in Hendersonville at Memorial Park on Monday night. They also plan to begin a Dinkville Doubles League starting on August 22. Registration to join is open until August 21.
"It's all about the community; it's all about people enjoying and being able to hang out with each other — working on their skills, working on their game. But really, at the end of the day, it's all about meeting new people and really just understanding that this is a community and with the community we can really make things happen and hopefully get some dedicated courts around here."
Community is key when it comes to the love of the game.
"All of these people around here I've gotten to know over the three years and it's a joy," Smits said.
But why name the group "Dinkville?"
Apparently, dinking is an official term in pickleball for a certain way to hit the ball. So, even if you aren't playing the game, you might have just as much fun talking about it.
And talking about the game is exactly what Smits and his organization are hoping more people will be doing.
"At the end of the day, we're just hoping to get the word out about pickleball; get everyone to come out that's interested," he said.
Smits said he also teaches pickleball lessons, and hopes that as interest grows, maybe groups like this one will catch the eye of more professional, national organizers dedicated to the same sport.
"We're only as good as the people in our community, so if everyone can grow from this — everyone can get better — our community's going to continue to grow and hopefully put Nashville on the map for big tournaments and things like that," Smits said.