COVINGTON, Ga. — Pickleball is widely considered the fastest growing sport in the United States, and its popularity has spread into Newton County through the Covington Pickleball Club.
Ron and Tami Mast started the club in November 2020. And, even though their aim was to allow people an easier way to play pickleball, Ron and Tami accomplished something much more.
“It is a pickleball family and all are invited and welcomed,” Ron Mast said. “We have all ages, from all walks of life, from beginners to very advanced. Everyone enjoys playing with each other, and everyone feels accepted and valued.”
Pickleball is best described as a hybrid between tennis, ping pong and badminton. Individuals use a paddle, a small ball and a tennis net that is waist high to compete.
Currently, the Covington Pickleball Club has two courts — a private court in the Newton County Recreation Department and an open court at the City Pond Park. Since its inception over two years ago, the club has seen a growth from nine to 90 people as members.
Ron and Tami Mast highlighted the role the Covington Pickleball Club has played in the area’s increase.
“That first night of open play was a spark that ignited and quickly caught fire, and has continued to grow ever since, thanks to the people that are part of the Covington Pickleball Club,” Tami Mast said.
Ron and Tami got the idea to start the Covington Pickleball Club when they went on a cruise in December 2019. The couple cruised to the Western Caribbean on-board the Royal Caribbean.
During the trip, Ron and Tami met new friends who invited them to the upper deck to play pickleball. Prior to that encounter, Ron and Tami had no clue what the sport entailed but, after one game, they were “hooked.”
However, their love of the sport was challenged because they realized there weren’t any courts available nearby.
So, Ron and Tami would have to travel 45 minutes to an hour away just to play. Thus, the Covington Pickleball Club was birthed from the couple’s desire to play the sport.
As it currently stands, the club attracts many others to the sport as well.
“The famous movie line, ‘If you build it, they will come’ certainly holds true in pickleball,” Ron Mast said. “Many players even come from surrounding counties to play with the club. Players just want courts. Many counties are catching on to the popularity and growth of this fastest-growing sport in America and are providing indoor and outdoor courts for their communities.”
The Covington Pickleball Club meets on Mondays and Thursdays at each of their courts. Weather dictates which court they go to on any given day.
A tool Ron and Tami utilize to help facilitate growth and keep members engaged is GroupMe — a mobile group messaging app.
All 90-plus members are in the GroupMe and it has served as a useful tool.
“We also have a Facebook page, but there is more information put out on our GroupMe,” Tami Mast said. “As a group, we have designated times for play, but GroupMe also allows players to see who wants to play any spur-of-the-moment games.”
There’s no charge for membership into the club or to the club’s GroupMe.
In addition to the members’ weekly games, the Covington Pickleball Club offers free beginner’s classes as well as paid clinics by pro players, which is open to all skill levels.
There is also an anniversary tournament that the club has hosted the past two years that’s been a “huge success.”
Ron and Tami also highlighted how many players participate in tournaments outside of the club’s activities.
Members’ ages range from nine years old to people in their 80s. Ron and Tami mentioned that members, such as themselves, bring children and grandchildren to join in on the sport.
No matter the age, Ron and Tami highlighted the social aspect of pickleball as their favorite part of the Covington Pickleball Club.
“For both of us, it is the friendships we’ve made and continue to make as new people join in,” Ron Mast said. “We have so much fun, and it seems like we laugh the whole time. We have a great group of people that make up our group. We feel blessed by God to have the opportunity to be a part of this club. Our lives have been touched by the many wonderful people we’ve met through pickleball.”
But Ron and Tami don’t feel like the growth of pickleball in Newton is over by a long shot. In fact, they believe that the popularity is just getting started. And they encourage all community members to come out and join the Club.
“Whether you’re a pro, intermediate or beginner, pickleball is the only sport that allows husbands and wives, moms and sons, grandfathers and granddaughters to play competitively together,” Tami Mast said. “It is as much as you make it — hard core hits or fun, friendly laughs. The friendships you make are a big part of pickleball and the exercise combines strength and cardio.
“The Covington Pickleball Club welcomes all who step foot on the courts.”