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The Talon

The Talon

An Ankeny Pickleball League is born

For many of the pickleball players, spending time with friends is just as much a part of the league as the game itself. The league is built to be flexible in working around players’ schedules. Because many of the players involved with the Ankeny Pickleball League are busy with other sports and activities, teams are open to finding any time to play, even if it means getting up early on a weekend for a game. On Sunday, May, the Houston Red Rockets and the Big Picklers went head-to-head in an early morning match-up. Sophomore Hayden Carlson hits the ball over the net.

What started as a casual game of pickleball with friends at a birthday party grew into what is now known as APL (the Ankeny Pickleball League).

Everything started when a group of friends got together for AHS sophomore Owen Fischer’s birthday party and decided to play pickleball. Many of them had never even played the game before, but after the party, the boys did not want to drop the game anytime soon and discussed playing it together casually in the future. The result, however, was much more than casual games played with friends. 

“We talked about playing it [pickleball] sprinkled throughout the week, and all of a sudden, we were getting ready to have a draft and everything,” AHS sophomore Daniel Larmie said.

From there, the Ankeny Pickleball League was born. 

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Although pickleball has many similarities to sports like tennis and badminton, they have some key differences. Pickleball is played on a court that is 20-by-44, with four service boxes and two kitchens near the net. The most common way to play pickleball is with a partner, but it is possible to play a singles match. 

To start the game, the serving team hits the ball underhand to the box diagonal to their box. After the receiving team hits the ball back over the net, the serving team must let the ball bounce before they return it. After both teams have let the ball bounce, they have the option to volley the ball, which means they can hit it in the air. However, players cannot volley in the kitchen (also referred to as the non-volley zone). 

Only the team that is serving can score, and scoring can happen in several ways: if the opposing team hits the ball out of bounds or into the net, if they step into the kitchen for a volley, or if the ball bounces twice before they can return it. Games usually go to 11, and teams must win by two. 

When it comes to pickleball, members of the Ankeny Pickleball League take the game extremely seriously. 

“We’re real formal with it. You know, we’re here to win it,” Larmie said. 

Between playing with the official pickleball rules and having a trophy for the winning team, the Ankeny Pickleball League keeps everything very official. The team even organized a $500 prize for the winning team at the end of the season. Treating the game officially does not, however, mean that the players do not have fun during the pickleball games. 

 “If we’re doing it [a game] on the weekends some of us might stay the night at somebody’s house, then just get up and go,” sophomore Joey Sandvig said.

The pickleball schedule is organized with a calendar, and games are scheduled on a weekly basis. For the Ankeny Pickleball League, the season as a whole consists of regular games as well as a tournament season and playoffs. Teams are decided on through a draft. Of the players who entered the draft, only some had been a part of creating the league. Once the idea to start the Ankeny Pickleball League was created, recruiting others for the draft was the next step. 

The founders of the league immediately started talking to those that they knew. Friends, teammates, and classmates were quick to agree to the idea of joining the league.

 “In the weight room in the morning, we just asked, ‘Who likes pickleball, show of hands,’” Sandvig said. 

After recruiting, the players dressed up in their formalwear, similarly to a professional sports draft, in which teams were decided for the league. 

The draft is made up of 18 people and done in two parts. Each round included 8 players, who were drafted onto teams by the teams’ owners. The process is set up to act as a snake draft, meaning that the owner who chooses first for their first player will choose last for their second player. This strategy is used for the teams to turn out as fairly as possible. 

When it comes to the future of the Ankeny Pickleball League, its members are optimistic and excited for what the summer will hold. The league plans to continue and have a summer season, which will be even bigger and include more players than the spring season. 

“A lot of our guys have football practice, basketball practice, and baseball so it’ll be a little challenging to fit in games. It’s all kind of an experiment year, but I think we’ll be able to figure things out,” Larmie said. 

Although this is the first year of games for the Ankeny Pickleball League and a lot of effort goes into organizing the draft, teams, and a game schedule, those involved with the league are prepared to make accommodations and flex as necessary.

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About the Contributors
Ava Gifford
Ava Gifford, Staff Reporter
Ava Gifford is a Junior at Ankeny High School. She is involved in Key Club and writing sports stories for the Talon. Ava is involved as a leader in her youth group, enjoys photography, writes music, and plays the piano and guitar. One fun fact about Ava is that her favorite season is fall because she loves when the leaves start to change and when it’s time for apple cider.
Levi Foster
Levi Foster, Staff Reporter
Levi Foster is a junior at Ankeny High School. In his free time he likes to hang out with friends and family, play sports, and work. He plans to pursue a degree in either Psychology or Journalism. A fun fact about Levi is that he is actively learning how to play an ocarina.
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