Do You Have Enough Access to Places Where You Can Play and Exercise?

Where do you go to exercise or play sports, whether on a pickup team or as part of an official school or competitive league?

Do you often use shared public spaces, such as school gyms, fields and courts, public parks and pools, or recreation centers? If so, is it ever difficult to get the space you need? Do you ever find yourself in a turf war with others who want to use the same space?

Today, you will read about the remarkable growth of pickleball in recent years and how, in some areas, tennis courts, which can be repurposed for pickleball, have become a source of contention among players of both sports, as well as others who want to use the space. Have you heard about this issue? Have you experienced it yourself?

In “Pickleball Is Expanding. Tennis Is Mad,” Steven Kurutz writes about the battle for court space:

Charlie Dulik and Michael Nicholas, tennis enthusiasts in Brooklyn, have lately been consumed by another racquet sport: pickleball.

They have no interest in joining those who have taken up the game in recent years. Rather, they have been following pickleball’s increasing popularity with a mixture of disbelief and outrage.

Mr. Dulik, a tenant organizer, and Mr. Nicholas, an urban planner, are the founders of Club Leftist Tennis, a Substack newsletter that covers their favorite sport through a progressive lens. In a recently published manifesto, “Against Pickleball,” they called for tennis players to “oppose the gangrenous spread of pickleball at every turn.”

Mr. Dulik, 27, and Mr. Nicholas, 28, adopted a semisatirical tone in their essay. But they are serious about their disdain for pickleball, a combination of badminton, Ping-Pong and tennis played with a small paddle and a hard plastic ball. Indeed, the two are participants in a cultural battle now playing out from New York to Hawaii, as pickleball players seek places to play and tennis players defend their ground.

When officials in Asheville, N.C., submitted plans to convert the three tennis courts in Murphy-Oakley Park into eight pickleball courts, tennis players rebelled. In Arizona, there was so much bad blood between the two factions that a law firm provided guidance to homeowners’ associations on how to avoid lawsuits. Tennis players in Hawaii complained that the organizers of the Pacific Rim Pickleball Cup had created a potential safety hazard on the courts because of the “gooey adhesive” they had left behind after they laid out pickleball lines with yellow tape.

When pickleball players in Exeter, N.H., petitioned to convert three of the town’s eight public tennis courts, tensions flared at a town meeting in what one resident called “The Great Tennis v. Pickleball War of 2022.” Martina Navratilova, the winner of 59 Grand Slam tennis titles, weighed in on the kerfuffle in Exeter: “I say if pickleball is that popular let them build their own courts,” she said on Twitter.

Tennis players aren’t the only ones fighting for space as pickleball spreads. The article continues:

Tensions run especially hot in a part of the country where space is at a premium: Manhattan. The trouble started last spring when pickleball players descended on Corporal John A. Seravalli Playground in the West Village.

For 60 years, Seravalli Park was a play land for neighborhood children, with swings and a jungle gym. This year, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation approved two pickleball courts there. An open blacktop on the site beckoned even more players, who need only a portable net and chalk or tape to make a court. At times up to a dozen unsanctioned courts were going.

Many of the players at Seravalli Park were not seniors enjoying a little low-impact exercise but men in their 20s and 30s. And far from the happier, healthier and kinder nature that pickleball is supposed to bring out, the Seravalli players were muscling children out of the way to play hotly contested matches. By September, parents and pickleballers were shouting at one another while children looked on in confusion.

Mark Borden, a writer and a father of two, was one of the parents who started a petition to have the parks department end pickleball at Seravalli Park. “There seems to be a lack of awareness by the pickleball players,” he said. “They’re blinded by their passion for their sport.” He likened pickleball players to “the lantern flies of the sports world — an invasive species that takes over a natural ecosystem and destroys it.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What do you think about this situation? Are you aware of places where people play pickleball in your community? If so, have you heard of or experienced any conflicts over court time?

  • Are there any other sports or activities taking place at your school or in your community whose participants have clashed over space, equipment or scheduling? How do these battles compare with what you read in the article?

  • Have you ever noticed a hierarchy among the people who use a common space for sports, exercise, play or any other hobby? Are some given preferential treatment? Do some act as if they deserve the space more than others? What rules or etiquette do you think should be followed when multiple groups want to use a space?

  • Have you ever experienced a conflict over a shared space? How did you handle the situation? Do you think you dealt with it well, or do you wish you had done something differently?

  • Do you think your school or city has enough places where you can play and exercise? If you were to make a proposal to your school administration or City Council for more spaces, what exactly would you ask for and how would you explain why it would be good for the community?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.

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