Skip to main content

Steamboat Magazine

Pickleball Serves Up a New Demographic

02/20/2024 01:12PM ● By Elainna Hemming
(Photo: Four members of the Steamboat Springs High School Pickleball Club celebrate after a match. Courtesy of Caleb Grommeck.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - Pickleball is best known for its qualities as a lifetime sport. It builds endurance, coordination and movement precision. Its rise in popularity in the Steamboat Springs community over the past decade has been apparent; yet, the overwhelming majority of these pickleball enthusiasts have been adults. So it would seem unexpected to walk into the Tennis and Pickleball Center on a Sunday night and see a large group of highschool teens, all equipped with paddle and ball, making swift backhands and explosive strikes. This is the scene of the new Steamboat Springs High School Pickleball Club.

The idea for the club first came to Caleb Grommeck, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, in September of last year. As president of the junior board, a summer camp lead instructor, and a ROGY coach at the tennis center, Caleb is well versed in the world of racket and paddle sports. Within the tennis and pickleball community, Caleb noticed a lack of casual participation among players. His main goal for the club was to cultivate a unified and positive space. “I really just wanted an environment where anyone of all abilities could come and enjoy pickleball,” Caleb says.

He recruited the help of fellow highschool students Alicia Sabin, Baylee Walker and Damien Dobson to develop a fundraising method. Although they had received approval from the Tennis and Pickleball Center, they needed to figure out a way that they could pay for the courts and the facility’s resources, such as paddles and balls. They knew that the best incentive for people to join would be to make the event free. So after a full day of enduring the cold outside of ACE Hardware (featuring Alicia in a vibrant green pickle costume to attract potential donors), the foursome raised $1300 for the club. In addition to the money raised, anonymous parent sponsors allow the club to remain at no cost to all participants.

Through word of mouth promotion and a little help from social media, the club gained interest from other high schoolers; the initial Google sign up form received up to 50 responses. Now, the weekly Sunday evening meet-ups vary anywhere from 30 to 50 people in attendance. The sessions are built around a fun, easy going attitude as doubles partners challenge other pairs to matches. The club gives everyone a healthy sense of competition, but there’s also a valuable social aspect to it. “I always end up hanging out and talking to different people than I normally would,” Alicia says. 

It’s a comfortable environment where students can experiment with their hobbies. “It’s important for young people to get involved not only to grow the sport of pickleball but also for people to get out, do something and be active,” Caleb says. Many members of the club had never played pickleball before joining but are finding the fun in trying new things without any athletic expectations or experience required.

As Alicia says, “Go pickleball!”