By Lisa Carolin
If you were at the Chelsea Senior Center on Monday, April 4, you might have been one of the 16 seniors rotating on and off the three courts reserved for pickleball players.
“We play three mornings a week,” said John Van Tiem, referring to his wife and himself, who live in Grass Lake. “It’s good exercise, a fun group of people, and we enjoy the social side of it.”
“And it’s a sport seniors can play three days a week,” said Pam Wood, a Chelsea resident. “It keeps us active.”
Pickleball has been growing in popularity in part because it is low impact and easy on the joints, which makes it appealing to people of all ages.
“We started offering pickleball in 2012, when Gary Leonard approached us about starting a pickleball program in Chelsea,” said Trinh Pifer, Executive Director of the Chelsea Senior Center. “Since then, the group has grown to play three times a week on three courts.”
She says they average about 12-15 players each day. The sport is played with four players on a court. It was named for a Cocker Spaniel named Pickles that chased the perforated plastic balls used in pickleball, which is played on a surface 1/3 the size of a tennis court. The object is to hit the ball with paddles over a tennis-type net on a badminton-sized court.
“If you’ve played a paddle sport, you can play,” said Van Tiem. “It takes good reflexes and keeps your mind sharp.”
Shot placement and strategy are more important than brute strength, and the net is lower than most other racquet sports. The ball is served underhand, and points can only be scored by the serving side. The first side to score 11 points and lead by at least a 2-point margin is the winner.
“Pickleball is great for keeping seniors physically active and connected with people of similar interests,” said Pifer. “The scoring system is great to keep mental acuity!”
Pickleball is easy for beginners to learn, but can also become a competitive, fast-paced game for experienced players.
The Chelsea Senior Center offers pickleball year-round on indoor courts Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 9-11 a.m.