January 26, 2013 in Washington Voices

Seniors serve up exercise and fun on pickleball court

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Margie Rone returns a serve while playing Pickleball on Wednesday, at the HUB Sports Center in Liberty Lake.
(Full-size photo)

Clinic Sunday

Prospective players can attend a clinic from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the HUB Sports Center, 19619 E. Cataldo Ave. The introduction caters to beginners, but seasoned players are welcome. It costs $5 for a paddle.

They’re a diverse bunch of seniors, all trying to stay fit by playing pickleball.

The oldest player, 92-year-old Jeff Glouser, is a former tennis coach who keeps up with spunky 62-year-old Margie Rone, who only started playing about a month ago.

Another player, Ron McIntee, 75, has macular degeneration and can only see the neon green whiffle ball when it bounces against a dark background.

Sunny Lynne Gray sells the sport as the most “fantastic, wonderful exercise that a senior citizen could do.”

“Once you get started you don’t want to quit. It’s addicting,” Gray said.

The pickleball group meets four times a week and it’s hoping for a bigger crowd at the HUB Sports Center. Though the nonprofit athletic facility focuses on youth activities, executive Phil Champlin said the center is looking to fill more of its space during the day.

“Seniors are a huge part of the community,” Champlin said. “For us to bring something in during the day, there’s not a lot of activity because all the kids are in school.”

Pickleball, which was created in Bainbridge Island, Wash., in 1965, combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

One of the group’s organizers, Frank Street, 72, said the sport has become very popular with senior citizens because of the ease of effort.

“They don’t have to move that fast, they don’t have to run like they do in tennis and it’s far more challenging in pickleball because there’s a lot of strategy involved that you don’t see by watching it,” Street said.

To play, you serve the ball underhand and pass it over the short net to a team of two. They pass it back and the ball can quickly ricochet back and forth based on player skill.

The sport is accessible to people of all ages and sizes, Street added, though he warns those with balance and hand-eye coordination problems will have difficulties.

The HUB’s indoor court allows the group to play year-round, but attendance drops during the winter because some members head south for warmer climes. The group hopes to attract new players at a clinic on Sunday.

Prospective players can expect to meet Glouser, a former tennis coach from California. He already has a tip for all the newbies: “Watch the ball.”

(Bottom: Jess Glouser, 92, makes a strong pickleball serve Wednesday afternoon during a quick game. | SR photo: Nicole Hensley)


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