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July 03, 2014 7:36 am

Local man sweet on pickleball

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Jeff Brandt, 58, returns a volley to his wife Maggie during a game of pickleball Tuesday afternoon. Brandt set up his own pickleball court in his father-in-law’s workshop and will play in the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in July 2015. Jeff Brandt, 58, returns a volley to his wife Maggie during a game of pickleball Tuesday afternoon. Brandt set up his own pickleball court in his father-in-law’s workshop and will play in the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in July 2015. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Garland resident wants others to enjoy sport, give him a challenge  

Its name might be hard to understand but the reasons it’s so popular are obvious.

Pickleball has taken over retirement communities and rec centers across the country and one Park County man hopes to spread the new sport through Powell.

Jeff Brandt has played pickleball, a modified version of tennis, for just a couple years, but has already fallen for the sport that he says has kept him fit in the early days of retirement.

Brandt, 58, of Garland, played pickleball in the Colorado Senior Games and placed second in his age group, which qualified him for the National Senior Games in Minneapolis in July 2015.

He will also compete in the Wyoming Senior Games July 11 in Casper. But Brandt, who picked up tennis about 15 years ago, isn’t in it for the glory.

“I don’t do it just to win,” he said Tuesday. “For me it’s a weight-loss thing. It’s a great way to exercise.”

Pickleball is so quick and engaging that Brandt says the exercise comes as a surprise.

“You don’t know it until the next day,” he said. “It’s really fun and a great workout.”

Brandt was introduced to pickleball, invented in Seattle in 1965, through an old friend who now lives in Leisure World, Ariz., advertised as the state’s “best value in active adult lifestyles,” where pickleball has quickly picked up a head of steam.

It was when Jeff and his wife Maggie, also a pickleball player, returned from a trip this winter (which included pickleball matches in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico) that they took their devotion to the sport a step further.

With a little duct tape and the cooperation from his father-in-law, the retired Billings, Mont., firefighter built his own pickleball court in a workshop in February.

Jeff and Maggie can now get in matches with friends and neighbors whenever they like, but both would like to see the sport catch on throughout the city.

“We play everyday, my wife and I,” Jeff said.

Jeff Brandt said virtually everyone is able to play and enjoy the benefits of pickleball.

“When you play singles it’s a great exercise,” Brandt said. “Anybody can pick up a pickleball paddle and hit that ball.”

Plus, pickleball won’t cost you dearly like a sport such as golf, he said.

“It’s relatively inexpensive,” Brandt said. Wooden paddles can be bought for $15-$45 while composite paddles cost between $40-$80.

The sport, which is played with a plastic ball and small wood or graphite paddles, is especially attractive for senior citizens.

There’s “virtually no impact for your wrist, your elbow or your shoulder,” Brandt said.

Brandt said pickleball could be a great year-round option for seniors looking to stay active, but it would take the cooperation of the city’s recreation district or Northwest College.

The Powell Recreation District currently offers outdoor pickleball games which the Brandts enjoy, but what can seniors turn to once the cold weather sets in?

“For winter, unfortunately in this part of the country you need to have indoor activities,” Brandt said. “Powell has all the dart leagues that involve drinking.”

Brandt said he doesn’t care if there’s a league or tournament, he just wants a place for people to play pickleball a couple times a week in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

He and Maggie play almost every day at 3 p.m. in the workshop across the street from their own home.

The court is lined with red and yellow duct tape and the structure is outfitted with fluorescent lighting (something Jeff is hoping to improve), a propane heater for the winter, and a classic stereo system for on-court entertainment.

“When it’s windy you can just close the doors,” Brandt said. “When it’s cold you can turn on the heater.”

One pickleball match is comprised of a best-of-three series of 11-point games. The winner must win by two.

“The beauty of it is it can be as competitive as you want to make it” Brandt said. “I would play my 27-year-old son up here ... and he and I are pretty competitive but I would always beat him pretty handily.

“The problem I’d have here is finding somebody competitive enough to up my game.”

Those looking to give Jeff Brandt a challenge, or who would like to help organize a pickleball league can reach him at 406-672-3355.

Powell Recreation’s pickleball league plays at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday night at the Westside Elementary tennis courts.

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