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The Sweet Sport of Pickleball

One of the fastest growing athletic crazes in South Mississippi…and the women who love it!

By Elaine Stevens//

“Pickleball has been my salvation…”  —Cindi Jordan, 76

“It is the most fun sport in the world!”— Bonnie St. Paul, Mississippi Sr. Olympics Pickleball

Double Gold Medal Winner, 75

“I am more productive, I function better.” —Julie Peine, age 46

“Pickleball provides an overall sense of well-being for me.” – Linda Perkes, Mississippi Sr. Olympics Pickleball Double Gold Medal Winner, age 57

The testimonials for the sport with the funny name are too numerous to mention. Small paddles and colorful polymer whiffle-like balls are selling like hotcakes coast wide and changing the lives of players in all age brackets. Created in 1965 by a Washington state lawmaker, pickleball courts are popping up from Pass Christian to Biloxi. The high-energy, low impact game was initially adopted by senior citizen, but the game is quickly spreading to the younger set. According to the national pickleball association website, www.usapa.org, there are play opportunities today in all fifty states. Players from Louisiana, Texas, California, Utah, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona played while visiting South Mississippi.

Seventy-one year old Anita Giani and her husband Ron Feldman heard about pickleball in Mexico nine years ago and from friends who live in Arizona. The couple is credited with bringing the sport to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“I was on the parks commission when we were rebuilding the tennis courts in Pass Christian,” explains Anita. “We made sure to get pickleball lines on the outdoor courts. Dedicated in October 2012, the Pass Christian courts gave us the first place to play pickleball on the coast.” Since then pickleball lines have also been added to the outdoor tennis courts at Pineville Elementary School on Menge Avenue in Pass Christian, USM Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, and at Popps Ferry Recreational Area across from the Margaret Sherry Library in Biloxi.

The avid players Gulf Coast Woman interviewed say the sport, above all its many positive aspects, has made exercising fun. Fifty-six year old Terrie Anderson has always been athletic, however a snow skiing accident and knee surgery left her fearful to engage in any sport—until she discovered pickleball from a friend. “For seventeen years I did nothing after my accident. I could hardly walk,” says Terrie. “I started playing in February and lost twenty pounds. Pickleball got me off the couch, out of the house, and got me in shape.” Now Terri is on the courts about fifteen hours weekly. And, it’s become a couple’s game for her and her husband.

Health issues be darned when it comes to playing pickleball. Gulf Coast Woman learned there are coast players living with cancer and Parkinson’s disease who were actually part of the Senior Olympics this year. Seventy-six year old Cindi Jordan had a double knee replacement six years ago and is six months out from another knee surgery. “My 85-year old stepfather plays pickleball, so I thought I would check it out,” says Cindi. “I use it for physical therapy.” Like Terrie, Cindi plays pickleball five days a week in three hour sessions. “It is a wonderful, well-rounded workout,” says Cindi. She says the results have been far more effective than going to a gym and using weights.

Pickleball is frequently played outdoors in some parts of the country, however locally players have been utilizing Biloxi’s Donal Snyder Community Center in Biloxi, Gulfport’s Herbert Wilson Recreation Center, and Long Beach’s Sports Complex. The sport’s popularity has led to an outpouring of players asking Biloxi City Council and Mayor Fofo Gillich for assistance for summer play since all indoor facilities will soon become unavailable due to summer camps. The City heard their pleas and players will be able to congregate on four courts at the gym of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) Jefferson Davis Campus from June 1 – July 31, Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM to Noon, thanks to an agreement between the City of Biloxi and MGCCC. Gulfport will open the Lyman community Center with three courts for pickleball play from June 2- July 31 Monday and Thursday 6:00-9:00PM; Tuesday and Thursday 9:00 AM – Noon.

Visit www.usapa.org Rules and “Places to Play” for locations throughout the USA.

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