WILKES-BARRE — A game that has generated buzz among older adult athletes at a local YMCA has the potential to bring generations together to exercise and have fun.
Pickleball, a court-based combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton is offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA, 40 W. Northampton St.
YMCA mission advancement and marketing director Meghan Carnevale said the game has gained national popularity and that it made sense to implement it in Wilkes-Barre, where it has taken off specifically with the Y’s older membership.
“It can be played at whatever pace the players are comfortable with,” Carnevale said. “It can be a rigorous workout, or it can be slower for newer players.”
Wellness director Lauranel Banks describes the game, played with a hollow, plastic ball and large wooden paddles, as oversized ping-pong, because one bounce is allowed between volleys over a net.
Carnevale and Banks said while the game has caught on with older adults first, it has the potential to draw all ages of athletes.
Banks, and her boyfriend, both 37, enjoy playing the game, she said.
“As a younger person, if you’re competitive, it’s challenging,” Banks said.
A group of experienced pickleball players gathered at the YMCA court on March 3. Bill and Joanne Runner, Beth and Bruce Rosenthal, all of Shavertown, and Chic Marra, of Hanover Township, are all experienced tennis or racquetball players.
Bill Runner said pickleball “absolutely” caters to competitive nature.
“Age is not a limit,” Bill Runner said. “A number of players here today are in their 70s.”
Avid players can find games on vacation by looking up open court times and locations at usapa.com, Runner said.
Marra, who is currently on the injured list for racquetball, said he was exposed to pickleball a year and a half ago.
“It’s a rehab game for me, but it’s easy to pick up, and I love it,” Marra said.
Carnevale said the game has been embraced by active members but has also spread to non-members who can play for a $5 fee.
“We’re looking at a way to expand the program and add additional court time,” Carnevale said. “It would be great to make more formalized leagues.”
Lessons for inexperienced players are offered on Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. by appointment.
Beth Rosenthal said the game can easily become a family activity or a means for making friends.
“I’ve played with my daughter,” she said. “It’s social. It gives you a good workout and I’ve met a lot of new people.”
Joanne Runner, who plays pickleball in a workout regimen that also includes tennis, golf, bowling and treadmill workouts, said she enjoys the sporting aspect of pickleball.
“It’s fun because you get a lot of exercise, and it’s just a challenge,” she said.
First time players Nancy and Joe Paddock, of Hanover Township, picked up the game without a lesson and said they’ve enjoyed learning on the fly.
“It’s fun, which makes me want to do it, because exercise can be boring,” Nancy Paddock said.
Also a newcomer, Jane Jeremy, of Wilkes-Barre Township, said the game is stimulating for the mind as well as the body.
“It’s a lot of movement and it makes you think,” Jeremy said. “It keeps the brain sharp.”
Banks said pickleball can develop hand-eye coordination and requires a beneficial amount of lateral movement.
“That’s important for balance and perception and keeping with being mobile and agile at a later age,” Banks said.
Banks said as interest grows in the game, she is glad to see how it caters to groups of friends and couples.
“We have a bunch of husbands and wives coming together,” she said. “They’re being active together, and I don’t see husbands and wives doing things together as much as they should.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.