Upper St. Clair seniors sweet on pickleball

Sport as exercise offered at Boyce Mayview center

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Upon retiring from the airline industry, Bob Snyder, 66, knew changes were in order.

"After 30 years of sitting before a computer, I thought I better get some exercise," he said.

Although he liked racquet sports, he no longer was able to play tennis. So, the paddle sport of pickleball -- which is played on a smaller court than tennis but employs the same strategy -- became his game of choice.

From 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, year-round, Mr. Snyder of Upper St. Clair indulges his new passion at the Community & Recreation Center at Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair.

Gym space that usually is used for basketball is converted into two pickleball courts for doubles games for older adults: Sessions are for residents and nonresidents who are 50 and older.

The sport is typically played on a badminton court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. The paddle is 8 inches by 8 inches, with a total of 15 inches in length, and is used to hit a wiffle ball. As in pingpong, the first side that scores 11 points and leads by at least two points wins the game.

The game was created in 1965 by two Washington state men after they could not find badminton equipment to play on an old badminton court at one of their homes, according to the USA Pickleball Association.

So, they improvised, crafting paddles to use as rackets and substituting a perforated plastic ball for a birdie.

Amy Kerman, older adult coordinator for the Upper St. Clair Department of Recreation and Leisure Services, said pickleball was added to the center offerings a year ago upon request.

The noncompetitive play draws four to 20 players a week.

Jim Hess, 73, of Upper St. Clair learned of the sport through a recreation center publication.

"I played tennis before, but pickleball is a lot easier, as you don't have to cover as much ground,'' the retired mechanical engineer said. He said the biggest challenge arises if the opposing player puts a spin, or so-called English, on the ball.

Nancy Sumera, 67, of Upper St. Clair is a former tennis and racquetball player who found rebirth in court play with pickleball.

"You can play a hard game, or a game agreeable to others," she said.

"When you get to a certain age, your body doesn't have the quickness, but a lot of people there can really go," the retail sales retiree said of the pickleball players. "A lot of us aren't ready to sit in a chair yet and do leg exercises."

The cost to play pickleball at the Community & Recreation Center at Boyce Mayview Park, 1551 Mayview Road, is $25 for 10 sessions, or $3 per session for rec center members and township residents. For nonresidents, the cost is $35 for 10 sessions or $4 per session. No registration is required.

Participants should bring gym shoes; paddles and balls are provided. For more on pickleball: www.usapa.org.


Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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