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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tufts has a new club sport — pickleball

Students Luke Steiner and Kekoa Pastron have worked to create a club centered around the emerging sport, open to all students.

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Club Pickleball executive board members Luke Steiner and Kekoa Pastron practice on Feb. 20.

Club pickleball, founded this semester by sophomores Luke Steiner and Kekoa Pastron, aims to provide a space for students to be able to both learn the growing sport and play it competitively. Currently, the team has over 100 people on their roster and is only growing.

“We wanted this really inclusive environment where anyone can play,” Pastron said.

The new club sport team has been a hit from the beginning. With many students attending their original general interest meeting, the Tufts Community Union Senate granted Steiner and Pastron their full budget request.

“There’s something about Tufts and pickleball that just makes sense,” Steiner said. “[Pickleball] is a little niche, you know, Tufts is a little niche, and I felt like there’s definitely a lot of people who … talk about pickleball, and they’re like ‘Oh I love playing pickleball at home with my friends.’”

However, such an early onset of success has come with its downsides: first and foremost, space. As of right now, the club has access to only two of Gantcher Center’s tennis courts on Tuesdays and four during their Sunday practices. When space becomes tight, players must rotate to ensure each gets a turn to play.

“Don’t get me wrong. It’s the best issue to have as a club sport trying to start out,” Pastron said. “I think, honestly, we are the most frustrated about not having enough space for everyone because we want everyone to be playing. But everyone is usually pretty happy at practices.”

Then there has been the matter of organizing social events — with such a large team, players have developed an interest in attending gatherings outside of practice.

“People are like, ‘Oh, we want to be social chairs,’” Steiner said. “Well, we’ve only had a few practices so far.”

Beyond the club’s newness, the sheer volume of participants can make it difficult to orchestrate an event that every member can participate in.

“If we had 120 people showing up to an event, … we wouldn’t even know what to do with ourselves,” Pastron said.

For now, the captains said that they are focusing on running smoother practices, but Pastron said that larger club wide events are definitely “in the books and on our list.”

With such a new club, Steiner and Pastron have found themselves relying on different tools to adapt to a lack of formal facilities accommodating their sport. With no court lines, each practice must first begin by measuring and putting them down, costing time, space and money.

“Over the course of the next couple of years, I feel like the biggest amount of our budget is going to go to tape,” Steiner said.

Both captains agreed that running practice is the most straightforward part of leading the club and that managing logistics is more difficult.

“I didn’t realize how many moving parts there are, especially between getting funding, getting equipment, … even just leading the first couple of practices. I think that was something new for both of us,” Steiner said.

Despite these hurdles, club pickleball has done well and received high praise from its members.

“I am so happy that they put it together,” sophomore Eliza Burgmaier said. “I think [club pickleball] is a great addition to Tufts, and I’ve been talking to a lot of people when we leave, and we’ll always be like ‘I’m so much happier than I was when I got here.’”

Burgmaier grew up playing the sport with her family — even participating in family tournaments — and was disappointed when she was placed on the intramural pickleball team waitlist. Another member, first-year Zach Murray, switched from tennis to pickleball in high school. He voiced a similar opinion to Burgmaier.

“When club pickleball came around, I was super excited for that. I didn’t get into the intramural team because of the super long list of people, but I was able to play club pickleball,” he said. “It’s really fun getting to see a lot of different people from all different backgrounds of different sports, or even no sports at all, come together to play.”

Overall, the two members seemed to look forward to what the club’s future holds.

“I’m excited to see where the club goes,” Burgmaier said, “and I’m super, super happy that Luke and Kekoa put it together.”