If you see someone around town wearing a neon green shirt with a giant pickle on the front, theyre probably on their way to a game of pickleball.
Pickleball actually has nothing to with a briny cucumber: Its a fast-growing sport with similarities to tennis and badminton. Teams of two players use paddles to hit a plastic Wiffle ball over a net.
Its a lot of fun and great exercise but is easier on the body than tennis, which is why it appeals to a lot of senior citizens, said Joe Vartanesian, ambassador for Wake Forest in the USA Pickleball Association. One of the great things about pickleball is that it can be played on a tennis court, in a gym or any place where we can put a net up.
The Wiffle ball moves much slower than a tennis ball, so the sport requires less running. The first team to reach 11 points wins.
You can find the Wake Forest pickleball group on indoor and outdoor courts around town with plenty of laughter and cheering at each match.
For the past decade, the men have been playing golf together three times a week and had nicknamed themselves the Legends, as in legends in our own mind. But wanting to do more than just golf, the men began giving back to the community by volunteering in the Smile Train triathlon, Wake Forest Santa Breakfast and several church projects.
Then while Jerry McInnes was on vacation last summer in Florida, he played pickleball with some friends. As soon as he returned home, he got the Legends group out on his neighborhood tennis courts playing the game.
The men quickly realized that pickleball was something their spouses would enjoy playing and they could all play together. Now they are so hooked on the game that theyre planning to visit senior centers to share their new favorite sport.
I really look forward to playing pickleball each week, and especially spending time with my wife, McInnes said. But I have to admit that my favorite part of the group is going out for donuts or lunch together afterwards.
The group is looking to expand and is inviting anyone who would like to participate. Newbies can borrow paddles to make sure the game is a good fit for them before making the $30 to $60 purchase. The Triangle has other pickleball groups, including those that meet at Optimist Park and Brier Creek Community Center.
While many people are just learning about the game, it actually has been around for a long time. One afternoon in 1965, dads Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum invented the game as a way to keep their kids from continuing to utter the refrain Im bored. While the kids were playing, one of the families cocker spaniels, named Pickles, kept chasing the balls and hiding them from the players, hence the name.
The game has steadily gained momentum with a recent explosion in popularity. More than 100,000 people currently play, according to the USA Pickleball Association, which is dedicated to determining official rules, coordinating tournaments and getting the word out about the game.
If you feel like you have ever played tennis or badminton or ping pong, then you will find this is an opportunity to play a different game and have fun, Vartanesian said.