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YOUNG AT HEART

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Ed Couch of Brookville, closely eyes a return shot while playing Pickleball at the Miller Commnity Center in Connersville.
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Margie Yeager, left, returns a shot while game partner Ed Carr watches during a pickleball match at the John Miller Community Center.
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Laara Delain of Richmond, who turns 82 this spring, eyes a return shot during a pickleball match on Monday. Waiting for their match tostartare Bill Sergent, left, and Ron Graves, both of Connersville.

By JEFF STANTON - jstanton@newsexaminer.com

A lot of people think of pickleball as a relatively new sport and that it is relegated to old folks.

But neither concept is right.

Players get together Monday through Thursday mornings at the John Miller Community Center in Roberts Park. They play, exchange stories, compare notes and maybe hone their game.

Although many seniors play, pickleball has been around since the 1960s. It has become a competitive sport played by teens on up. There is even professional competition.

Brenda Lee, who organizes the local talent pool, says although the game is not just for seniors, it was the older set that revived the game.

Pickleball is a paddle sport for all skill levels. Rules are simple. The game is easy for beginners to learn but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court. There is a slightly modified tennis net.

Around these parts, it’s enjoyed by many who want a physical outlet, something to help them get the exercise they need and at the same time, enjoy the camaraderie of others who also enjoy the game.

“When we play in the summer, we have people from college age on up and we’re picking up younger people now as we go,” Lee said. “It’s an active sport; you don’t have to run as far as tennis, but it’s very quick, but I have to admit, the seniors probably have the bulk of it.”

Margie Yeager, and husband, Les, both retired school teachers, were looking to get involved in a physical activity after leaving their jobs in 2010. Margie was an English teacher at Connersville High School and Les taught art at Centerville High School.

The Yeagers typically play three days a week, which could also include games at St. Gabriel School.

“It’s mostly people who work during the day,” Margie Yeager said of playing at St. Gabriel. “They have to get their pickleball fix in, too. Les usually plays there and I do sometimes. His competitive element, which has always been there, has shown up in pickleball. He’s got this shy little grin when he aces you with a serve.”

Margie Yeager explained most who play for fun don’t necessarily get along well with those who take it too seriously. “We just have fun and it’s exercise. I’d say we’re pretty typical of the kinds of groups that get together. You’ve got a few who are in for competition and blood, but most of us are here for fun and amaze ourselves when we make a good shot.”

Bill Sergent of Connersville retired at age 63. Pickleball helps keeps him in good physical condition. Sergent said he purchased his first pickleball paddle out of the trunk of a car.

“I bought a paddle recommended for a beginner,” Sergent remembers. “It keeps me in shape; this is my gym. Instead of having to go pay for a gym membership, I just go play pickleball. Since I retired, I play about four days a week. I got into pickleball five years ago, and once I learned how to play, I started playing all the time.”