If you pass by Wall Park at the right time, you’ll notice a wave of activity on the facility’s pickleball courts.
That’s all thanks to a group called Cheltenham Pickleball.
The social-athletic club began in early 2019 through an idea and an email. Nearly four years later, membership is 400+ strong… and growing. A Yahoo Finance article from June, “Pickleball fever rises in America: ‘Everybody we know now plays’,” neatly sums up what’s been going on in Elkins Park.
After giving the game a try, founding member Dan George realized its potential for the area.
“I became involved through co-founder Brian Malloy, who passed in 2021, and was a great ambassador for the game. I came to the conclusion that this could be a way off the couch and to interact socially and intergenerationally. That was my objective,” he said.
A series of meetings with the Township brought forth financial support and, according to Dan, “Things steamrolled from there.”
“Things really picked up at the beginning of last year. We now have more people than we can accept in our program, only because we don’t have the capacity to take all of them,” he said.
While play is more recreational than competitive, the group is a well-oiled machine with a three-tiered organizational system, a mission statement, a training program, a membership app, a website, and social media coteries.
Dan and Howard Silver serve as Cheltenham Pickleball’s “co-leaders,” the top tier of leadership. Nine long-serving members—Karen Meyer, Larry Chirlin, Ed and Peggy Greenfield, Mary and Jack McGovern, and Syd and Cliff Bassman—are “leaders” who help to guide the direction of the organization and its activities.
“Play leaders,” the third tier, volunteer program by program and oversee court activity.
Members form the club’s foundation, without whom none of the above would be possible.
With the Township’s blessing, the group recently mapped out a win-win deal with nearby Salus University, which will now provide indoor court time and space several times a week until April.
“The Township will provide leadership, with Daniel overseeing the group and helping to organize games, scheduling, etc.,” Fabien Desrouleaux, Director of Parks and Recreation, said. “The benefit for Salus is that their staff, faculty, and students will be able to participate in the program for free. It’s an additional amenity via a fitness program that they can promote. We provide that service for them, the promotion, the clinics, and the program.”
“It’s big in Cheltenham and really everywhere,” Commissioner Matt Areman said. “Even Lebron James owns a team. It has a hugely impactful social aspect to it. It sounds like a pretty cool experience.”
The group’s leaders emphasize the group’s welcoming nature, and the highly social aspect of the game, the group, and its members.
“Cheltenham Pickleball has brought so many from different communities together. You never know when someone walks through the gate how they’re feeling, so we make it a point to be positive and accepting of everyone,” leader Karen Meyer said. “It’s about being social, healthy, and a team player. We’ve been joined by parents and their kids, and it allows them to have an outlet. We try to draw so many different kinds of people from many different countries, ethnicities, all of the above. That’s important to us.”
Off-court activities among group members are aplenty as well. Extracurriculars include bird watching outings, beach, kayaking, and hiking trips, flower shows, community clean-ups, and Pinochle and Mahjong get-togethers.
It’s a happening.
“My wife and I started lesson at Northeast Raquet Club before we went to Mason Mills a few years ago. Cheltenham Pickleball is now the only place we play,” leader Ed Greenfield said. “We’ve picked up so many friends along the way.”
Larry Chirlin noted the outlet’s necessity during a trying 2020-2021.
“We played in masks just about everyday during the pandemic,” he said. “It was a real life-saver to have something to do outside.”
Previous experience and knowledge of the game is not a requirement for membership. And then there are the health benefits.
“For an aging population, the health benefit is just tremendous. We get a nice workout, and it’s motivating to recover from injuries and ailments so we can get back out there on the court,” Howard said. “We try to support each other through health issues. We have a really nice community feeling about it.”
For more information about Cheltenham Pickleball, you can check out their Facebook page, Instagram page, and their activity on the Township’s website.
To get a feel for the game and its popularity, you can also check out the YouTube channel Pickleball is Life, which featured their Cheltenham brethren last year:
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