Monday, January 16, 2017
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Get ready for fun! According to Julian Gonzalez, director of Parks and Recreation in Mission, the new sport, pickleball, introduced to Mission by a group of Winter Texans from Bentsen Grove Park, has taken off like wildfire.

"The courts are full of Winter Texans when they are open. And not only do the Winter Texans love it, we are having local families watch the fun and asking to play as well," said Gonzalez. "If interest keeps growing, we will have to find additional gym space for more courts for the sport. Winter Texans love it."

The sport, which seems to be a cross between ping pong and tennis, and is played on a court the size of a badminton court, keeps Winter Texans active. Pickleball courts have been set up at the Mission Parks and Recreation gym, located at 721 N. Bryan Road. The courts are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Pickleball has been introduced at the Bentsen Grove RV Resort. Bentsen Grove residents have found the game in other states and would like to see it develop as a Golden Olympic sport in the Rio Grande Valley.

When the Winter Texan Times editor dropped by Mission Parks and Recreation to see pickleball in action, the courts were full and there were 20 Winter Texans lined up waiting for their turn to play. In addition to Bentsen Grove, there were players from Tip O' Texas in Pharr, Winter Ranch in Alamo and Hidden Valley Ranch in Mission. One set of players was staying in a hotel and found the listing on the Internet.

Bill Hopkins, who was in charge of the activity that day said he first started playing the game in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In his younger years, he was a devout tennis player but the game was too hard on him now. Pickleball is an active sport that still gives him good exercise, but without all the running involved in tennis.

Hopkins introduced 82-year-old Max Beck, who was the oldest player there.

"I enjoy pickleball because it is fun and I get exercise," said Beck, who looked nowhere near 82. The average game lasts 12 to 15 minutes depending on the players' skills. Most games use nine points as game point although it can go to 11. Players decide before starting what the fame point will be.

Dan Renda of Bulverde, who winters in the Valley, said that part of the draw of the game was the social aspect. "You meet great people, get exercise and sometimes find new dinner companions," he said.

Winter Texans who love to be active and activity directors who might be interested in adding the sport to their park's activities, are invited to drop by Mission Parks and Recreation during pickleball playing hours and see what the sport is all about.

For the next few weeks, questions or queries on pickleball competition can be sent to riverchasers2wo@gmail.com. Everyone is invited to come out during any of the scheduled times to be introduced to this activity. Some of the more skilled players will provide free lessons to anyone wanting to learn the game.

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