In the mid-1960s, a new sport emerged in Bainbridge Island, WA, as a children’s backyard game. The game, which would soon be dubbed “pickleball,” would grow into a phenomenon to be enjoyed by individuals of all ages. And nearly six decades after its inception, pickleball has landed in the Hamptons, led by Scott Green, a Hampton Bays resident and founder of Around the Post Pickleball.
A summertime, fan-favorite for many, pickleball is played in singles or doubles, much like tennis. However, instead of using rackets and tennis balls, the game requires the use of paddles and plastic balls equipped with holes for aerodynamics. The set begins with a serve and a volley ensues, with points tallied when one team fails to advance the ball over the waist-high net or keep the ball in play.
“Sometimes, when I mention pickleball to people, I still get the reaction: ‘What’s pickleball?’ Not everyone has heard about it,” Green says. “I think that it’s getting more popular today because people have been cooped up for three years; Covid has separated people. Now, you can come to this sport, which is tremendously social, meet two or three groups of people, do something and see results quickly.”
“The learning curve is not that steep,” he adds. “Unlike golf, and I love golf, there is no frustration to pickleball. If you are in your late 40s or early 50s, and you may not have been very active outside of your college sports or the local softball league, you can play this game, and you can get the reward of learning it. It’s ultra inviting, and when you are playing with your friends, it never gets too serious.”
While pickleball may have been played on tennis courts, gym floors and blacktops in the Hamptons for years, 2021 brought about the first organized group for the sport on the East End. Around the Post Pickleball got its start in Hampton Bays and quickly emerged as a force for recreation and exercise for people of all ages.
“When tournament time comes around, then you see the hard-core pickleball player who wants to win, or wants to compete,” Green says. “But, generally speaking, people view this game as not something serious enough to get mad about. Nobody plays pickleball in a bad mood, I don’t know if you get that from bowling, or tennis, or golf.”
After its formation, the organization immediately gained steam among locals and seasonal visitors alike. Hosting several tournaments throughout the summer months, Around the Post is organized by Green, who some would call the region’s “father” of the game. Green is a twice-certified coach, hosting clinics in the Hamptons and elsewhere throughout the year, with some of the world’s and the East End’s top players in the game.
“We had 250 people come to our clinics this year and I have 10 more coming this weekend for the first time,” he says. “When you come to our clinics, we are ready. We are organized and ready to drill you.”
His hope is to continue to grow the game in various ways and capacities, creating enthusiasts and pickleball communities wherever the pickleball is served.
In September of 2021, the Hamptons held what was perhaps its most successful pickleball tournament, bringing players to the East End from New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. With approximately 110 players, the tournament, which was originally conceived to be a local tournament, proved that pickleball fever is far-and-wide and demand to play the game is growing each and every day.
Green brings with him a unique background and experience, which has served as an asset in networking the sport in our region. Professionally speaking, he specializes in corporate events. He has made a career of hosting events involving Major League Baseball, including “Play at the Plate,” a small company that runs adult and father-son baseball tournaments at MLB parks, spring training sites and historic baseball fields.
Some of his organization’s events have been hosted at the Field of Dreams site in Iowa, as well as the nation’s oldest continuously used baseball stadium, Rickwood Field, in Birmingham, AL.
“Going into the baseball business was a natural fit for me. The fields that we go to have to have a certain quality,” Green says. “The playing surface itself needs to be outstanding, and in most cases we require a clubhouse, showers and the whole nine yards. For me, the connection between the two sports is my passion about these two sports.
“People are making a large commitment to come and play ball with me,” he continues. “We always make sure in either sport that you are going to have a good time and it’s something that you are going to walk away from with a good experience.”
While much like his task in baseball, his efforts in pickleball are to build support for a game that is without a professional league with primetime broadcast rights. Pickleball, which is largely seen as recreation, brings people together, Green says, and establishes a shared sense of community in the spirit of competitive sport.
Seemingly taking off nationwide, though, major athletes and celebrities have begun to express their interest in the sport. For example, NBA star LeBron James has just purchased among the first professional league pickleball teams. The game has been competitively played by everyone from your neighbor who frequents the local Y.M.C.A. to Kim Kardashian in an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
In January of 2023, Scott and Around the Post Pickleball will be taking their show on the road. They will be bringing local participants and players to the state capital to participate at the Albany Capital Center against teams from many of New York’s 62 counties. The statewide showdown will begin on Friday, January 13, and proceed through Sunday, January 15.
“We are playing in a brand new facility that is absolutely state-of-the-art,” he says. “They are moving the basketball court upstairs for us. The City of Albany is embracing this, providing us with a grant to come this year and next. We will also be going up in November to provide a free clinic to the Albany school children, to help them learn the game.
“You don’t have to be an athlete or have tremendous hand-eye coordination to play pickleball,” he continues. “Even if you didn’t take instructions, you would still be able to play pickleball. If you just kept playing, you would have a basic understanding of the game.”
Green encourages local East Enders to get involved, by participating in one of the various tournaments or simply picking up a paddle for some instructional lessons. Teaching the game to beginners, Green says, is a key to growing the game for the future.
“Over the next few months, we will be helping 800 to 900 physical education teachers learn about the game and helping them introduce it in their curriculum,” Green says. “We did it for Hampton Bays middle school and high school teachers, and now the students, as we speak, are playing pickleball on those courts. Without the high school’s inclusion, the takeoff of the game in our area wouldn’t have happened.” He adds, “And it’s the teaching aspect we love more than the tournaments.”
For anyone seeking more information on Around the Post or Pickleball in general, visit aroundthepostpickleball.com and contact Steve Green for more information.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.