Tulsa seniors get active on pickleball court

TULSA, Okla. — Pickleball is not just for gym class anymore. It’s said to be the fastest growing sport in the nation, with its popularity spiking during the pandemic. With the flexibility to play casually or competitively, pickleball is a sport recommended for all ages and skill levels.

Several seniors were in pickleball form Thursday at Southminster Presbyterian Church near South Peoria Avenue and East 31st Street in midtown Tulsa. Organized by LIFE Senior Services, the players competed on three courts set up in the church’s gym.

Frank Pacenza has been playing pickleball for about four years. He picked up the sport after his friends persuaded him to try it, and he’s been hooked ever since.

“It’s one of those things, once you try it you get addicted to it, and now I play virtually every day,” said Pacenza. Pacenza won state championships this year for mixed doubles and men’s doubles, and went to the national tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in the country right now, especially for seniors. You need to get out and try it at least once,” said Pacenza. “You’ll be playing every day like I am.”

Pickleball grew in 2021 to 4.8 million players in the U.S. and has a growth rate of 11.5 percent per year over the last five years.

According to USA Pickleball, the sport combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net. It can be played as doubles or singles, and each player uses a paddle to hit a plastic ball with holes back and forth.

Pickleball is particularly growing among seniors because it’s easy to pick up. A game is generally low-impact and the actions improve hand-eye coordination.

Pacenza agrees that pickleball is great hobby for seniors who want to be active, but said what’s even more important is the socialization it provides.

“We have so many people that tell me I never got out of the house until I started playing pickleball. You get out of the house, you’re getting good exercise, you’re socializing, you meet a whole lot of people. We have parties together,” said Pacenza. “So I think it’s even more important from the socializing aspect for seniors than for the exercise.”

The Greater Tulsa Pickleball Club lists several locations to play pickleball at across Tulsa County. LIFE Senior Services coordinates pickleball games for seniors weekly at Southminster Presbyterian Church. You can contact them at 918-749-2623 for specific dates and times.