For more than twenty years, Bill Humberd participated in biweekly tennis matches. "I love to play," he says. "I played with a large group of men for many years."
In 2015, Bill was introduced to a new racquet sport - pickleball - at the Norwell Town Recreation Center. "I was immediately intrigued," he says. "I learned the game quickly from the experienced players. Before long, I was helping teach beginners."
In the months that followed, several South Shore towns opened pickleball courts at their recreation centers.
"I was often invited to play at these other locations," says Bill. "The popularity of the sport was evident. For those of us who enjoy playing, it was an opportunity to improve our games as we faced better and better players."
Spreading the word
In 2018, Bill and his wife Susan moved to Linden Ponds, an Erickson Senior Living community in Hingham, Mass.
"I was lucky because I was still close enough to continue to play games within the local community," he says. "But I knew that my new Linden Ponds neighbors would also enjoy the game."
Bill approached management with the idea of adding an indoor pickleball court to the extensive list of community amenities.
Bill's enjoyment and dedication to the game reflects a growing national trend. According to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Boasting more than 2.5 million players in the United States alone, pickleball participation grew by more than 21% between 2019 and 2020.
"For the last several years, I witnessed the growing popularity of pickleball," says Bill. "I was excited about the ability to play on our own Linden Ponds court. I also liked the idea of an indoor court, allowing us to play year-round in all types of weather."
With a scheduled renovation planned for Linden Ponds' Seasons Catering Room, Bill knew he found the perfect spot. Last summer, the new floor was lined for pickleball and low hanging lights were replaced with recessed lighting. A removable net, paddles, and balls were also purchased.
Then it was up to Bill to recruit some pickleball players.
Come and see
"I knew that the best way to encourage people to try pickleball was to see the game in action," says Bill. "I purchased donuts and coffee and invited the community to watch several of us play in real time."
Of the fifty residents who came to watch, 35 people, from ages 60 to 92, signed up to join the new group. Over the next few months, Bill worked patiently with each new pickleball player, regardless of experience or skill level.
Don Mistretta and Larry Dolinsky were two of the first Linden Ponds residents eager to join Bill in playing pickleball.
"The best part was learning a new game," says Don. "I also enjoy the physical requirements, the competition between residents, and the fact that residents are not only participating in a physical activity, but laughing and having fun."
Don and Larry now assist Bill in teaching new players.
"I love helping people learn the game and then watch them have fun," says Don. "My biggest joy is watching residents improve their quality of play over time and the joy they experience while playing the game."
"Teaching pickleball at Linden Ponds has resulted in a whole new dimension of social interaction and camaraderie as we continue to encounter each other throughout a myriad of activities, both on and off campus," Larry says.
Something for everyone
Linden Ponds' indoor pickleball court is a wonderful resource for sports enthusiasts throughout the year, whether it's either too hot or too cold to venture outdoors.
"Tennis will always be my preference," says Judy Dozois. "But in the colder months, when tennis is not really an option, pickleball is a great alternative."
Judy, like her neighbors, also appreciates the social aspect that pickleball provides. "Pickleball is much more social than tennis," she says.
"When four people are playing on our court, the rest of us enjoy chatting and watching the game. Everyone gets a turn both at playing and at socializing. It's one more venue in which to meet new people and make new friends at Linden Ponds."
"The social aspect of the sport is evident," Larry adds. "Friendships develop in a short period of time. Those on the court - at any moment in time - are recognized, and often applauded, for good volleys and good shots."
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