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Aging With Style

Pickleball: The New Jam, Especially For Pining Picklers

Article by Julie Brown Patton

Photography by Brandi Richards

Originally published in Frisco City Lifestyle

Local senior citizens who play the sport of pickleball most mornings at The Grove at Frisco Commons take their sport seriously. So seriously, they felt a bit lost when the pickleball courts were closed recently for a few days for repainting.

Pickleball, which reportedly began on the West Coast more than 50 years ago with a badminton court, ping pong paddles and a whiffle ball, boomed in popularity in the past few years. Pickleballs now are slightly larger than tennis balls and are made of plastic. Pickleball paddles are usually made of wood, graphite and composite materials. 

It’s been about two and a half years since Frisco Parks & Recreation staffers opened a pair of pickleball courts at The Grove, 8300 McKinney Road, the department’s active adult center.

"Several of us play nearly every day," says Frisco resident Emil Sommerlad, who started playing pickleball about 14 months ago. "Others Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday. Many of the same players, and then some others on Saturday. I try to play every day, and there are several that also try."

During the summer heat, Emil says some players start at 7 a.m. "But usually by 8:30, most are there. It's a little different during the spring, fall and winter," adds the 79-year-old.

Sometimes there are as many as 16 to 18 players or those waiting to play, Emil observes. "I’d say the average age attending is 65. And very interestingly, I’d say it’s 50/50 male/female. Everyone plays, and sometimes you get a competitive partner, and sometimes you get a learner; people adjust. Everyone is very courteous to their fellow players."

Emil says newcomers are welcomed "as if they were playing with us for a while." He says he devotes about 2 hours to being on-site each trip, with about 75% of that time spent playing. The Grove has two courts, and four people play on one court at one time, so eight are playing altogether. He says they follow a rotation system that makes sure everyone gets a fair turn of playing.

"We also have an informal texting system where we try to alert everyone if weather or other conditions limit play," he adds. 

Several education teachers who normally work during school days are using the summer to play pickleball. "A significant number of our players are retired, but some leave to go to work, or may play on their days off," Emil says. 

Some “picklers” (as the sport’s fervent players are known) who lack dedicated courts on which to play have been resourceful and use painter’s tape to mark makeshift courts in driveways or cul-de-sacs, which have been illuminated with vehicle headlights during nighttime games. Others reportedly have marked pickleball court lines on tennis courts sitting idle at Frisco-area schools where they play games on weekends.

At The Grove, pickleball players sign up at the adult center's front desk. Cost for lessons is $40 per month; membership is required for lessons. As of this May, pickleball courts are open for play seven days a week during daylight hours, except during lessons. No membership is required for open play.

Cost to play pickleball for residents is $50 per year, non-residents is $100 per year. A day pass costs $3 per day.

"Everyone plays, and sometimes you get a competitive partner, and sometimes you get a learner; people adjust. Everyone is very courteous to their fellow players." ~Emil Sommerlad

"Newcomers are welcomed as if they were playing with us for a while."

  • Frisco resident Emil Sommerladmil
  • Emil