forecast weather station weather station

It's Thursday April 25, 2024

News From The Village Updated Almost Daily

A Peck of Pamlico Pickleball Players
New Sport, New Gym at Camp Caroline
February 20, 2017

lose your eyes and listen. It sounds like ping pong.

But a quick glance tells you the players are not at a table but at what looks like a tennis court. Only, it’s smaller….

Valerie Fryczyaski, back to camera, volleys with Jackie Mahan at the new gym at Camp Caroline.

..and in their hands they’re not wielding racquets but what look like like ping pong paddles on steroids. Then, you squint. That bright orange thing they are volleying over a 3-foot tall net… “Is that a… wiffle ball?”

What it is, is pickleball.

Said to be the fastest growing sport in America, pickleball got its start decades ago in a backyard outside Seattle. It’s now found a home in Oriental and Pamlico County, where 45 residents have joined the ranks in the past two years.

Three games going on at once at the new gym at Camp Caroline a few miles outside Oriental.

“For me,” says Deborah Bryant, “it was instant love.”

The Oriental-area resident immediately took to the game with the odd name when she was introduced to it in 2015

“My neighbor, Ann Albee, told me about this game Linda Applegate had taken her to in Havelock. She said I should try it. So Linda took me over to Havelock to learn how to play it.”

“It gave me a good workout and was fun at the same time. I decided I it was so much fun it needed to be shared here in Oriental.”

She started just a few steps from her home. In her driveway, Deborah and her husband, Ed, laid out a pickleball court. “Ann Albee and I painted the lines. We ordered a net and paddles. All we needed was players.”

Ellen Polk puts quick reflexes to work on the pickleball court..

The net and paddles arrived – and while Lee Duer had by now gotten involved, they were still short a player for that first game. “We needed one more,” says Bryant, “So we kidnapped a woman walking her dog.”

Driveway pickleball had been born in Pamlico County.

No further abductions were needed. Bryant says the word spread, as did an invite,
“‘Bring a chair and something to drink to our driveway.’” In hardly no time, we had 8 – 16 gathered in a driveway for pick-up pickleball,” Bryant says, “Our driveway became the “Field of Dreams – Build it and they will come.’”

So many now show up, mostly all the games are doubles. Deborah Bryant, left, and doubles partner Alice Petree. The first pickleball games in Pamlico County were played in Deborah Bryant’s driveway.

They did and they found a lot to like. “I love that it requires some level of strength, flexibility, balance and quick reflexes.” says Lee Duer. “Having never really played racquetball, tennis or ping-pong, which require similar skill sets, I am particularly challenged by pickleball.”

Jackie Mahan says, “Pickleball – and a healthy diet – have helped me lose almost 8 pounds in the last two months.”

More courts set up in the area that first year. Wyatt and Connis Cutler put one in their cul de sac; Oriental Plantation painted their tennis courts to accommodate pickleball. Arlington Place let Bill Gillespie tape their courts, and Bill also put in a court in his driveway.

The Town of Oriental approved adding pickleball lines to the Lupton Park tennis courts over a year ago, That project is ‘still in the works’ according to Town Hall.

Susan Dillard calls pickleball “fun for anybody’s whole family,” She and other players say the game is way too much fun to characterize it as a sport for the highly intense athlete. Still, that doesn’t preclude playing with purpose.

Just as pickleball is news to many people, the same could be said of the place where these players gather several times a week — in a brand new gym on the banks of Dawson’s Creek.


Pickleball got its Pamlico County start out doors, but over the past year the place to see the sport has been onss courts a few miles southwest of Oriental on Dawson’s Creek. The gym inside the brand new Jack & Gladys Lee Building at Camp Caroline opened just over ago and looking to be a place for community activities. Several of the pickleball players – Deb Bryant, Cecily Lohmar, Susan Dillard – met with the camp’s manager, Casey Perry.

Casey Perry, Camp Caroline’s director, on the pickle ball court at the new gym at the camp.

He was able to use a community outreach grant from The Bate Foundation set up “to nurture all of the residents of Pamlico County.” Casey Perry ordered nets, balls and paddles, and made 3 Camp Caroline courts available to the public 5 days a week for a small fee. This February the pickleball enthusiasts – celebrated one year of playing at Camp Caroline.

This g ymnasium is one of the features of the Jack & Gladys Lee Building, the brand new facility at Camp Caroline on Dawson’s Creek.

In the summer months when Camp Caroline has campers, play is limited to Sunday. Volunteers from Oriental are responsible for staffing and organizing community play. New players are welcome; no equipment is needed other than tennis shoes. Paddles and balls are in ample supply at the gym.

A peck of pickleballs.

Fair to say, pickleball has arrived in Pamlico County. But where did in come from? How did it arrive? And what’s with the name? Turns out, the name has to do with a dog who lived more than half a century ago in the Pacific Northwest.

Pickleball play in action.

According to the USA Pickleball Association website, USAPA.org, two friends, Joel Pritchard,a congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, were at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle and found their families sitting around with nothing to do. There was an old badminton court on the property, so Pritchard and Bell looked for badminton equipment to get their families into a physical activity. But they could not find a full set of rackets. Nor a birdie. So, they improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball.

Lee Duer
Lee Duer, a self-described “full-fledged pickleball fanatic” left with Casey Perry. Duer says she loves pickleball for a number of reasons: “for the aerobic exercise, the mental challenge, the hand-eye coordination challenge, and in large part for the camaraderie.”

The game took on tones of ping pong on a hard tennis court. In time, a third friend, Barney McCallum, joined Prtchard and Bell in drawing up rules, drawing heavily from badminton, and with a focus on keeping it a game the whole family could play. Fifty years ago, in 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian. By 1972, a corporation had been formed to protect the creation of this new sport.

Deborah Bryant who set up the county’s first pickleball court in her driveway, playing at the county’s current nexus for pickleball – the Lee Building gym at Camp Caroline.


In 1976, the same year that Tennis magazine published a story describing pickleball as America’s newest racquet sport, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. More than a few of the players were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball. They practiced with large wood paddles and a softball sized whiffle ball.


The gymnasium in the new Jack and Gladys Lee Building can accommodate three pickleball games at once. Here, Steve Polk and Susan Dillard play in the first court.“God help us,” Dillard laughs, “if Venus and Serena Williams take up the sport.”

By 1984, USAPA formed and the first rule book published in March of that year. A Boeing industrial engineer transformed the fiberglass/nomex honeycomb panels used as part of an airplane’s structural system to create the first composite paddle.

Pickleball blur.

In 2001, pickleball was introduced for the first time in the Arizona Senior Olympics. 100 played, making it was the largest pickleball event ever played to that point. There are now 12,668 public places in the United States designated as pickleball courts. Over 200,000 people are playing the game with an odd name.

PIckleball has put Camp Caroline’s new gym on the map. On this map of established pickleball courts, there is a pin for The Jack & Gladys Lee Building .

About which. “The Pritchards had a dog named Pickles,” Barney McCallum recalled. “You’re having fun at a party, right? So anyways, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.”

Local players see intercollegiate and Olympic competition on the horizon, though the game is good exercise and fun for any age from middle school to octogenarians.

Dick Lam.

The enthusiasm of the game’s players in Pamlico County is matched by that of Casey Perry, manager of the Camp Caroline gym. “We couldn’t be more proud,” he says, “that the Jack and Gladys Lee Building here at Camp Caroline has become a hub for pickleball in Pamlico County.

Jack & Gladys Lee of Arapahoe made the new facility possible.

“Most everyone who comes to play is discovering so much that Camp Caroline can offer,” Perry says. “I hear regularly, ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea that Camp Caroline had so many great facilities.’ I love to give tours around the camp.”

more fun
Light-hearted competition.

He credits the philanthropy of Jack and Gladys Lee of Arapahoe as well as the entire Region of the North Carolina Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which owns and operates Camp Caroline. “This demonstrates our commitment to continue growing all kinds of ways we can reach out to our surrounding communities and be a partner and ally to people in the county.”

Casey Perry.

“I want county residents to dream with me on ways the camp can create initiatives to support their interests. I’m honored to be able to promote ways the camp stimulates healthy living in Pamlico County.”

Posted Monday February 20, 2017 by Melinda Penkava

Share this page:

back to top