The new game in town is getting players in a 'pickle'

The group of Cromer pickleball players who went from Cromer to Southampton to play. 

The group of Cromer pickleball players who went from Cromer to Southampton to play. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club

It is one of the UK's fastest growing sports and its fans include the Kardashians and Leonardo DiCaprio.

And now pickleball has been put firmly on the map in north Norfolk.

Dozens of players have taken up a bat and ball to try their hand at the sport - described as a mix of tennis, table tennis and badminton - since Cromer Tennis Club introduced it last summer. 

Richard Millman, a former US national squash coach, brought the sport to the club after seeing its popularity explode on the other side of the Atlantic. He started three weekly sessions - Tuesdays at 7.30pm, Saturdays at midday and Fridays at 7pm.

Mr Millman said part of pickleball's appeal was that it was so easy to learn. 

Richard Millman coaching pickleball at Cromer Tennis Club.

Richard Millman coaching pickleball at Cromer Tennis Club. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club

He said: "Within five minutes of picking up a pickleball paddle children can start enjoying the game. It makes it a very inclusive game giving fun for an entire class of different abilities - and from pickleball you can move on to other racquet sports."

Judy Oliver and Jean Spruce were appointed to co-ordinate the sport at the club when Mr Millman returned to the States over winter, and the Cromer team was soon playing matches against rivals including Norwich, Dereham, Gorleston and Hingham.

Anakin Owen with a bronze medal he won at the Southampton contest.

Anakin Owen with a bronze medal he won at the Southampton contest. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club

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Eight Cromer players -  Richard Millman, Pat Millman, Karen Owen, Anakin Owen, Ms Oliver, Alex Oliver, Rhodri Oliver and Paul Brittain - even took part in the English Open Pickleball Tournament in Southampton at the start of the month, returning home with two gold medals, two silvers and five bronze. Mr Owen even made it through to the quarter finals of the open national competition. 

Icarus Hines, the tennis club's vice chairman, said he was inspired by the sport's social possibilities and, along with Keith Dickens, organised a tournament between the Cromer and Sheringham Round Table and the 41 Club, which is made up of ex-Round Table members. Around 30 people took part. 

Cromer pickleball players Paul Brittain and Pat and Richard Millman, in their kit sponsored by the Artisan cafe at Alby.

Cromer pickleball players Paul Brittain and Pat and Richard Millman, in their kit sponsored by the Artisan cafe at Alby. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club

Mr Millman said he was now aiming to introduce pickleball into Norfolk schools, and Cromer Academy's Year 7s are already playing the sport as part of their PE lessons.

Kelvin van Hasselt, club chairman, said he was thrilled there were so many racquet sport options in Cromer.

He said: "With squash under our new squash coach Henry Geaves and tennis under a team of tennis coaches led by Andy Margarson, we can, with Richard’s expert help, provide five racquet sports at our club with quality coaching on offer for adults, schools and juniors."

Anyone wishing to try the sport can email judybcoliver@yahoo.com or call 01263 513 741 to book a place. Mr Millman can be reached for individual coaching on millmansquash@gmail.com. 

A social event in Cromer at which members of the 41 Club played the Cromer and Sheringham Round Table at pickleball.

A social event in Cromer at which members of the 41 Club played the Cromer and Sheringham Round Table at pickleball. - Credit: Supplied by Cromer Tennis Club