Pickleball a hit among seniors in Stratford

STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, ping pong and a couple of racquetball sports, is gaining popularity – especially among seniors.

Like seniors at the Baldwin Center in Stratford, who were busy playing the game Wednesday afternoon.

“We started off about a year ago,” said Lauren Donovan of the Baldwin Center. “We started doing it once a week and it has grown so much we’re up to twice a week.”

The court is one third the size of a tennis court — designed with no volley zones. The ball is a bit thicker than the typical plastic wiffle ball. The first to reach 11 points wins the game.

“The serve is one serve underhand,” said pickleball ambassador Diane Sullivan. “It has to bounce. The return has to bounce and then anything goes.”

Played indoors or outdoors — there’s the obvious exercise benefit for seniors — but with the focus on eye and hand coordination — it also impacts peripheral vision.

“When you lose your peripheral vision, its very gradual,” said Sullivan. “You don’t realize it so by having the ball come right at you and you’re focusing on it and you’re looking to the side to your partner and then you’re looking across the net and you’re really able to focus — it helps all of that too.”

The ball drops like a dead tennis ball — so getting to it is essential.

“If you like a competitive sport, it’s great and it doesn’t have to be that competitive either,” said player Linda Toman. “I had both knees replaced and it’s a game I’m able to play because I’m not able to play tennis anymore.”

Still it can be strenuous.

“You don’t have to be fit at all– you just got to want to get out there and want to do it,” said Rich Astin.

And there’s more than fun — in a game like this.

“We do it because it’s fun but we really like to do it because you get to win and as you get into your senior years, its nice to win something.”

Right now, pickleball is being played in parts of Fairfield County and New Haven County (Milford Senior Center). It’s coming to the Orange Senior Center, too.

The name for pickleball apparently comes from the sport of crew. For more about the game, click here.

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