Fall Guide: Pickleball, human foosball and dodgeball bounce into Wheels Fun Park | Other Sports | Indy Week
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Fall Guide: Pickleball, human foosball and dodgeball bounce into Wheels Fun Park 

When the weather gets gelid and the grass turns brown, it's hard to find the motivation to participate in group sports.

All those pack runs that reward three-mile jaunts with a cold, sudsy beer? They look less appealing when it's 40 degrees outside and the sun's gone down before you've eaten lunch. But important people, such as doctors and Michelle Obama, say that exercise is an essential part of the human condition.

This fall, a roller-skating rink in Durham offers new takes on good old-fashioned physical activity. What could be more fun than strapping into an inflatable court to play human foosball? Maybe hanging tough with the grannies during a pickleball match? If you're particularly tart, you can even pummel other grown-ups in the adult dodgeball league. (I hear "non-sting" technology has come a long way.)

Ask anyone about PICKLEBALL and they'll tell you it's a sport that's "gaining momentum." In April, the city of Raleigh installed six outdoor pickleball courts—the first of their kind in Raleigh—behind the Method Road Park community center. And in Durham, Wheels Fun Park is forming its very own adult league. Besides being the best-named sport of all time, what is it?

"Pickleball is a combination of badminton and racquetball, with a low net like tennis. It's played with wooden paddles and a perforated plastic ball," explains Karen Kozak, a Wheels employee who taught the sport in P.E. classes, and will now help run the league. "It's a growing sport for all ages."

Read: It's most often played by older folks, but with its kinship to aggressive paddle sports like ping-pong, young people shouldn't write it off.

Pickleball originated in Washington state in 1965, and the USAPA—yes, there is an official U.S. Pickleball Association—estimates there are more than 400,000 active players in the country today. Pickleball Carolina, however, suggests the potential for early adoption: There are only 500 registered players statewide. "I think each demographic has their own reasons why they enjoy pickleball," says Joe Borrelli, USAPA District Ambassador, North Carolina Coastal Plain. "As a senior over 50, pickleball ... keeps me active and I enjoy the competition. Anyone that has ever picked up a paddle or racquet will learn this game within a hour of being on a court."

HUMAN FOOSBALL may look a bit silly, but Kozak promises it's a real thing. The scaled-up version of the tabletop game occurs on a colorful inflatable court, typically 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. Straps, which keep the players stationary, run the length of the field.

"It's just like your table game, foosball, except the humans are the little guys in the middle," Kozak says. "You're belted in so you can only move a certain amount, and you're trying to score in the opposite goal."

So it's basically soccer in a bounce-house, where belts eliminate the hassle of running. Sounds like fun to me. Drop in and experience the new group activities at Wheels the week of Sept. 7 to see if they're for you. League play officially begins on Sept. 14 and runs through the end of November.

This article appeared in print with the headline "World of weird sports"

  • The new sports leagues begin play Sept. 14.

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