Pickleball is new to the Norfolk Family YMCA’s line-up.
And people couldn’t be more happy about it.
“I love (pickleball). It’s a sport I can play. Tennis I can play, but when you’re my age, your eyesight just doesn’t stay with you,” said 81-year-old Byron Ballantyne of Norfolk. “I think it’s great because there’s a lot of people who are in the same boat as I am. Tennis is pretty demanding for the senior citizens — physically — and this is not.”
Pickleball is similar to tennis, but it also has elements of badminton and ping-pong. The court is 20-by-44-feet, which includes a 7-foot “kitchen,” which is the non-volley zone on the court. Participants use paddles to hit a wiffle ball over a 3-foot high net.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, the ball is served underhanded and must land in the opposite diagonal court past the kitchen.
The ball must bounce once before being returned, and again before being returned by the serving team. Once the ball has bounced and been returned by each team, volleying may continue with or without bounces, only if participants are outside of the kitchen.
Games are played to 11, with points only be scored by the serving team. A two-point spread wins the game.
Barb Preusker, marketing director of the Norfolk Family YMCA, said she first had teenagers play pickleball this past spring during post-prom parties with the intent of offering it to seniors later on.
“In my heart, the biggest reason was, we don’t have a lot of things for seniors to do in this area,” Preusker said. “So that’s the reason we started with 55 and up, with every intention of going to teens as well, and everyone in between.”
Preusker said pickleball, which the Y is offering at the Norfolk Family YMCA Tennis and Pickleball Center, is good for hand-eye coordination, agility and balance.
It’s not out of the question to work up a sweat while playing, either, according to Maralyn Reznicek.
“It gives me a good workout,” Reznicek said. “In fact, I’ve lost some weight.”
Reznicek, who played tennis when she was younger, started playing pickleball in May. She said it wasn’t a difficult sport to learn, although at the beginning, it can be a little hit-and-miss.
“Well sometimes you feel foolish when you swing and miss, but it wasn’t that difficult to pick up. Anybody can pick it up and play,” Reznicek said. “You don’t have to be athletic to play and you don’t have to move a lot — fewer bodily injuries that way.”
Linda Carlson, along with her husband, Chris, also started playing this past summer. She said it was a cold start at first because it was all new to her.
“It was pretty bad the first two games. I told Chris I wasn’t coming back. I was too embarrassed because I couldn’t hit the ball,” Linda Carlson said. “But it got better. I think I do pretty good. It just takes practice and understanding the size of your paddle and the ball drops all the time, so you have to play on that, too.”
The Carlsons agree the best part about pickleball is the friendships that develop.
“(It’s) the people. Sometimes I like to stop to have a break so we can just visit,” Chris Carlson said. “I think it’s a chance for seniors in the Norfolk area to have good exercise and fellowship.”
Preusker said the Y will soon offer pickleball leagues and plans on opening the sport up for birthday, office and bridal parties.
“Just come out,” Preusker said. “You’ll have a great time.”