Pickleball gaining popularity in Southwest Florida

Published: February 13, 2015 5:32 PM EST

NAPLES – The weather in Naples on Friday, February 13th was beautiful; perfectly sunny with a 97 percent chance of Pickleball.

“I. Am. Addicted!” said Pickleball player, MaryJo Rini, “It’s such fun! It’s so much more fun than tennis, which I played for probably four decades.”

Pickleball has been around for 50 years, but it’s just catching on in Southwest Florida.

“It’s a great game with a funny name,” said Dominic Catalano, program leader at Veterans Community Park in Naples, “That’s basically how we put it.”

The sport was actually named after a dog.

“Dog named pickles,” player Paula Savarese said, “Yup. I knew that.”

It’s a combination of other sports: tennis, badminton and ping pong. Instead of using a racket, people play with paddles; instead of a tennis ball, they use a hard wiffle ball. Don’t be fooled, however, this sport is competitive. Another misconception is the age of its athletes.

“It’s a fast quick game that requires quick reflexes.” said MaryJo Rini.

“People think that it’s for older people that are retired. We’re both still working.” Paula Savarese said next to her teammate.

With the sport that’s new to Southwest Florida, organizers think they’ve captured the fountain of youth. It’s a sport that keeps people feeling young and staying active. Those who started this Pickleball club are hoping they can, eventually, introduce it to schools as an option for physical education classes.