ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Every Tuesday afternoon, an enthusiastic group of men and women can be found lobbing a whiffle ball over a lowered badminton net at the Elizabethtown Senior Center.
The members of this group are playing pickleball, which is slowly gaining a devoted following from old and young looking for a low-impact sport to enjoy. Pickleball even has a national organization and is an official game in the Senior Games, locally and nationally.
The game, named after the originator's dog, is a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong.
Pickleball player returns shot during match
According to the USA Pickleball Association, teams consist of two players on a court half the size of a regular tennis court. The plastic pickleball, which is like a Wiffle Ball of hard plastic with holes in it, is volleyed back and forth across a short net using flat wooden racquets that are slightly larger than pingpong paddles, but smaller than tennis racquets.
"It's like you are standing on the table for pingpong," said Tom Devoe, 64, who travels to the Elizabethtown center from Middletown every week for pickleball and badminton play. Pickleball also takes place at the Lititz Rec Center.
While pickleball might resemble tennis, it's much easier on the knees, less physically demanding and has the added benefit of plenty of social time, according to participants.
"It is so much fun to play and we really don't take it too seriously," said six-year pickleball player Pat Wood, 80, of Elizabethtown.
"I think it helps to keep me young," Wood added.
Although pickleball is not a fast-moving game like badminton or tennis, it does require eye/hand coordination as the whiffle ball doesn't have a lot of speed when hit. It's a game of strategy, according to Devoe.
"The ball is really unpredictable and it doesn't always go where you want it to go," Wood said.
Played until a score of 11, the pick-up game provides not only camaraderie for the players but a way to keep active indoors.
"I played softball up until two years ago," said 73-year-old Dawn Kerns of East Petersburg. "But I had to stop because everyone was getting hurt falling.