KOA Okeechobee to host top pickleball player

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
OKEECHOBEE – Okeechobee KOA, 4276 US 441, will host world-renowned Pickleball champion Kyle Yates on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. He will present an exhibition of his skills. Donations will be collected for KOA Care Camps. For more online go to koa.com/campgrounds/okeechobee.

OKEECHOBEE– Okeechobee KOA is scheduled to host one of the top pickleball players in the world on Feb. 4.

Kyle Yates will perform a pickleball exhibition and clinic on the pickleball courts at KOA which will be free and open to the public.

Yates is a multiple-time national champion in the sport and started competing nationally at 19 years old. In his very first competitive tournament, the SoCal classic in 2014, he won gold in 5.0 Singles, shocking the pickleball world by defeating the number one ranked player in the world at the time. In his very first nationals in 2014 he won gold in men’s doubles 19+.

Kyle was chosen as 2016 Pickleball Rocks Player of the Year and now teaches and plays pickleball professionally full-time. He helps teach at the US Open Pickleball Academy in Naples and also travels around the world to help spread the love of the game.

While the event is free, Okeechobee KOA will be asking for donations to their KOA Care Camp program. KOA Care Camp provides completely free summer camping to thousands of children battling cancer at over 100 specialized summer camps throughout North America.

At those camps, the kids and their families experience all the fun of summer camp at no cost to them. They swim, hike, laugh, make new friends and create joy-filled memories all while receiving the medical treatment they need.

“It’s just a great cause for the KOA to be associated with,” said KOA resident Keith Lazar. “Kyle Yates is also bringing some merchandise that he will autograph and then we will auction off with the proceeds going to Care Camp.”

The Pickleball exhibition will start at 4 p.m.

Mr. Lazar reached out to Kyle last year and pitched the idea of hosting the clinic in Okeechobee.

“I know a lot of people hear the name pickleball and don’t know what it is,” said Mr. Lazar. “But the people who play know about Kyle Yates. He’s recognized as the top player not just south Florida or the United States but the entire world. He’s won a tremendous amount of tournaments and to get someone of that caliber to come to Okeechobee and contribute to a great cause is something that is really good for the community.”

When you hear the name pickleball you might have two questions. What exactly is it, and does it involve a pickle? Unfortunately, there aren’t any pickles involved (or fortunately, depending on your opinion of pickles).

The sport of pickleball is similar to tennis and played with a 34-inch net, lightweight paddles and a plastic perforated ball. The game uses a court that is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.

Pickleball is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles is most common. The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles. The serve must be made underhand. Paddle contact with the ball must be below the server’s waist. The serve is initiated with at least one foot behind the baseline; neither foot may contact the baseline or court until after the ball is struck. The serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court. Only one serve attempt is allowed.

It was first created in 1965 by Washington state Representative Joel Pritchard and his friends at a party to keep themselves entertained. Legend has it that the name arose from the fact that the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, would chase the ball and run off with it during a match.

Since then pickleball has been one of the fastest growing sports in the USA. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association estimates that there are over 2.5 million pickleball players in the country.

For more information about the Okeechobee KOA, call 863-763-0231.

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