If you’re a fan of tennis, badminton or ping pong, you might want to check out YMCA of Greensboro’s pickleball program, which has gained a lot of attention and players over the past two years. Despite its curious name, the game itself has absolutely nothing to do with pickles! Started in 1965 by a few dads trying to ease their children’s boredom, pickleball is now five decades old, is recognized in the US, Canada and Europe and even has its own association- USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association).
Played with small paddles, plastic balls and a slightly modified net, pickleball is a fast- growing sport and can be played indoors or outdoors. Spears Family YMCA, Mary Perry Ragsdale Family YMCA, and Eden Family YMCA all offer indoor pickleball and welcome members of all ages to play. Similar to tennis, pickleball can be played with two or four players but is played on smaller courts with a modified, lowered net. The plastic ball doesn’t bounce as high or go as far as in tennis, so one must be quick on his or her feet to send the ball back over to the other side. One other major difference between pickleball and tennis, is that the player must serve underhanded but can use any stroke thereafter to lob the ball back over and the game goes until the first side gets to eleven points.
Spears YMCA offers pickleball every morning, Monday-Friday, from 9:00 am until noon and has as many as 26 people rotating in and out on four different courts. One of the positives of pickleball is that it attracts people of all ages. At Spears YMCA, players ranging from teenagers to senior citizens can be seen on any given day. Sports Director, Sarah Lord, says “Pickleball at Spears YMCA has become a community of laughter, fun, and joy. They are doing this together and they don’t quit nor let each other quit! It has become something that they look forward to and something that they do daily that makes them healthy in mind, body, and spirit. We love to see members begin to play and fall in love with the game and the community it brings!”
Spears YMCA member, Lilo Ritenis, is 80 years old and started playing six years ago, with her husband at Greensboro Sportsplex. They now play every day at Spears. “We never played tennis but just liked it after we tried it and have played ever since! And when our grandchildren are in town, we bring them and they love to play as well,” says Ritenis.
Members love the exercise and camaraderie of pickleball, which you can play for fun or competition, even participating in local and national tournaments. YMCA member J.R. Obrien, age 75, is a Marine veteran and has been playing for four years. He started playing pickleball in Florida during winter trips and still plays tennis and loves both.
Many members love that pickleball gives them diversity in their workouts, especially during the winter months, and gives them something else to play indoors on teams. The game has numerous health benefits, from improved agility and balance to weight loss and enhanced mood. Pickleball also helps players meet the American Heart Association’s current recommendations for adult physical activity:
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
- Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
- An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week
Many of the senior citizens at Spears play several days a week and even participate in the NC Senior Games held in High Point in the spring. But being a game for all ages, pickleball is now being taught in both middle and high schools as well, as its easy to setup on a basketball court through PE classes nationwide. There are over 15,000 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, according to USAPA.org, with at least one location in every state. With the new My Y is every Y program, which gives members access to YMCA locations throughout VA and NC, YMCA of Greensboro members can look for places to play while on vacation or out of town for work.
Three YMCA of Greensboro locations currently offer pickleball: Spears YMCA, located at 3216 Horse Pen Creek Road in Greensboro (spearsymca.org or 336.387.9622), Ragsdale YMCA, located at 900 Bonner Drive in Jamestown (ragsdaleymca.org or 336.882.9622) and Eden YMCA, located at 301 S. Kennedy Street, Eden (edenymca.org or 336.623.8496). The YMCA of Greensboro now has eight facilities serving the communities of Greensboro, Jamestown, Whitsett, and all of Rockingham County, including Eden, Reidsville, Madison and Mayodan, NC. The YMCA of Greensboro also operates YMCA Camp Weaver located in Southeast Greensboro. For more information, please visit ymcagreensboro.org.