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MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ — Move over, bingo and bocce ball. Pickleball is the new game that’s all the rage in the senior circuit.

Three times a week, Belmar’s recreation gymnasium is set up for this paddle sport — a hybrid of tennis, badminton and pingpong — that draws seniors age 65 and older from the borough and the surrounding area.

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“I’ve been playing it for 1½ years,” said Mary Marchese, 92, of Neptune, as she grabs her paddle and takes her place on the court. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

A game that is played by all ages, pickleball has become particularly popular among seniors because it’s easy to play, requiring a modified tennis net on a badminton-sized court, paddle and wiffle-style plastic ball. It provides a good aerobic workout without much stress and strain on the joints and muscles as well, according to the USA Pickleball Association.

“Once you start playing, it becomes addicting,” said Laura Callahan of Spring Lake. “It’s tennis, meets badminton, meets pingpong.”

Donna Weldon of Freehold pointed out that the game has also been adapted for the disabled, particularly for the wheelchair-bound. “Everybody can play,” she said. “It’s a fun way to meet people.”

 

PICKLEBALL: WHAT ABOUT THAT NAME?

There are no pickles used in pickleball, but the sport is presumed to be named for a family dog named Pickles.

The game was invented in 1965 by three enterprising dads from Seattle — Joel Pritchard, who would later become a Congressman for Washington, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum — trying to come up with a summertime activity for their children, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).

It was McCallum who is attributed with saying the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog, who would chase the ball and run off with it.

Currently, the sport of pickleball is one of the hottest games in the United States, regardless of age or region. The Surprise, Ariz.-based USAPA reports there are some 6,000 locations with more than 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts in the United States — and about 90 new locations are added each month at community and recreation centers, parks, schools and senior living communities.

Below is a video on how to play pickleball, courtesy of the USAPA: