YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America.
The Sports and Fitness Industry Association puts the roster of current players at more than 3.1 million, including hundreds of people right here in Yorktown.
A cousin to tennis, the sport has a multigenerational appeal, but it’s most popular among the 55-and-older crowd, accounting for nearly 75 percent of pickleball players. On a court 20 x 44 feet—smaller than a tennis court—pickleball players wield wooden paddles as they volley a plastic ball over the net.
For years, Yorktown residents lobbied the town to build dedicated pickleball courts, rather than retrofit tennis courts. They got their wish with the new Granite Knolls Sports and Recreation Complex, which opened earlier this year in Shrub Oak.
What makes the sport so appealing? The regulars at Granite Knolls had a few ideas.
“Great exercise, but really, to me, the most important thing is the social aspect,” said Meg Robstad, 64. “You sit on the bench and you meet your neighbors, and everybody has goodwill and it’s just a great game.”
Others, like 82-year-old Salvatore Pascarella, enjoy it mostly for athletic reasons. Pascarella also enjoys playing racquetball and bocce.
“I like any kind of sport,” Pascarella said.
One Yorktown resident said playing the sport has even helped with her Parkinson’s disease. “You have to move your body in different positions, you have to keep your mind on the game,” said Helena Rodriguez, 64. “It builds new cells on the other part of the brain and it changes the synapses.”
Lynne Withers, 67, and Ziggy Klammer, 75, have been playing the sport for years, including indoors at Club Fit, which recently donated windscreens to the Granite Knolls courts, preventing the plastic balls from being blown away or redirected by the elements.
“This is a little faster than tennis and it’s more agile for all kinds of people—young, old,” said Klammer, a retired New York City firefighter.
Withers, a retired phys ed teacher, said the courts at Granite Knolls are regularly filled with not just Yorktown residents, but also people from New York City, Connecticut, and other Westchester communities.
“We’re probably now the only dedicated [pickleball] courts in Westchester,” Withers said. “But for four years, we went to every town meeting, rec meeting, and fought for this.”
Players at all skill levels—beginner, intermediate or experienced—are welcome in Yorktown, Withers said. “The town loves to have these [courts] full all the time.”
The Granite Knolls Sports and Recreation Complex is accessible from Stoney Street.