Pickleball serves up fun at Kroc Center
On any given day, the Salvation Army Boston Kroc Center in Dorchester is alive with a variety of exercise classes for all age groups.
The 100,000-square-foot facility, named after and funded by Joan and Ray Kroc of the McDonald’s restaurant chain, features kettleballs and yoga mats on one floor, a basketball court, gym and climbing wall on another and even a swimming pool.
However, there is a marked difference in the schedule, due to a new sport that has been booming in recent years. Last week, the game of pickleball was introduced to 12 new senior athletes and is expected to be a popular new sport at the Upham’s Corner facility.
Pickleball employs plastic paddles and a plastic ball that can be played within the confines of a regular tennis court, or as is the case at the Kroc Center, a basketball court.
According to Trevor A. Garrick, the center’s fitness and wellness manager, the basketball court will be divided up into three pickleball courts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, allowing people to try out the new sport.
“It is popular with seniors, because a lot of seniors played tennis,” said Garrick. “It is a sport that you can play at any age. It’s not as fast and the court is smaller. Also, there is a social aspect to it.”
Most matches are played as doubles, although singles are played on the same court. The game is like playing a combination of badminton and ping pong and was created in the 1960s Pacific Northwest using ping pong paddles, a wiffle ball and a badminton net.
As the game changed and thrived, pickleball leagues formed across the country and were especially a big hit among older athletes.
Pickleball has a two-bounce rule and serving can be done either with a bounce or directly from the paddle. And unlike overhand serves in tennis, pickleball uses underhand delivery.
According to USA Pickleball ambassador and coach Susan McNamara, “what we’ve seen nationally is that the growth now in pickleball tends to be in the 25-40 [or] 50 age group.”
She also notes that the sport is being introduced into middle schools and high school intramural play.
As a sign of its expanding popularity, she cites an upcoming University of Connecticut tournament later this year and college pickleball scholarships offered by Utah Technical University in St. George.
McNamara heard about Garrick’s request for pickleball instruction through the association and gladly offered her assistance.
She and another coach met with the seniors last week and will volunteer once a week and give an hours’ worth of coaching and drills while training others to become coaches.
Garrick also pointed out that the center has purchased pickleball kits that include balls, nets and plastic paddles for the competitors, so players do not need to purchase equipment.
“The Salvation Army Boston Kroc Center is providing a safe space that allows our members to focus on body, mind and spirit,” said Kroc Center administrator Major Elvie Carter. “Now you can also add the new sport of pickleball to the list.”