Baby Boomers Return to College for Pickleball! The Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

When you think of a “typical college kid”, what do you picture? An 18-year old walking around with an oversized backpack and a pile of books? Perhaps a young adult with a look of pure excitement on her face, walking across the stage on her graduation day?

Would you picture a 68-year old married woman, with two kids and 7 grandchildren, with a degree she received over 40 years ago?

This is just an example of a typical student you’d meet at the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, or WILL. According to their website, “WILL offers a lifetime adventure for continued intellectual discovery in a supportive, expansive, and informal learning environment – for eager learners of any age”. The idea for this sort of program stemmed directly from the local townspeople, who had seen similar ideas in other communities.

Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

 

 

Offering 70 courses this fall, ranging from a one day hike to a semester long program, WILL is a unique opportunity for students who may not fall into the “traditional” age group. For only $75 per semester, students can take as many classes or activities as they want. Held at Western New Mexico University, inside the city limits of Silver City, the program is a convenient way to have both an active mind and an active body.

June Decker, the facilitator of the pickleball course, is thrilled that pickleball has caught on in her community. In 1979, Decker was teaching at a university in Vegas, where a coworker introduced her to pickleball. For years, they joked that they were the only two in New Mexico who knew how to play! After moving to Silver City from Vegas, Decker was determined to start pickleball as a part of the New Mexico Senior Olympics. Once they started playing at the state level, the cities wanted to join in on the fun as well. Decker had the skillset and the drive – all she needed was a facility. That’s when the WILL program came along. The Western New Mexico University already had good pickleball paddles and indoor pickleball balls, giving her a great opportunity to share pickleball.

WILL pickleball players

Once pickleball was introduced, the community caught the pickleball craze! Decker jokes that she “never would have believed I would create a community of addicts”.

Pickleball is one of the most popular classes at WILL. When pickleball was first offered as a course in the fall of 2013, registration for the 18-person class was full within minutes of opening. There were so many people on the waiting list that the decision was made to create a second class section. This year, in addition to the beginner’s class, there is also an ‘Intermediate’ class offered for those who took the class the previous year. Each class lasts for about an hour, and there are thirteen sessions per semester (once per week).

Thanks to the large number of pickleball fans, Western New Mexico State now offers community play two days per week. There’s always enough space, thanks to the 6 outdoor courts and the 4 indoor courts in the university gym. Decker said, “I am very glad we have a pickleball community here so I have people to play with, and I’m glad that people enjoy this great sport.”

WILL pickleballers

Decker keeps her advice for new players simple: “See the ball, hit the ball. If you think too much, you tend to over-teach, and then the [new student’s] heads are spinning!”

As the conversation ended, Decker started laughing while she joked, “We’re keeping senior citizens off the streets!”

Thanks for sharing your story with us, June!

Photos courtesy of http://www.will-learning.com/

by Miranda

Setting Up Pickleball is as Easy as 1-2-3

Pickleball mania is spreading! How do we know? PickleballCentral was recently contacted by a group in Dublin, Ireland who wanted to know what they needed in order to get started playing. That made us think there may be others out there who want to get started with this addictingly fun sport and need a rundown on the basics too. So, here’s what we told our friends across the Atlantic:Basket of pickleball paddles

Here’s the basic equipment you need for pickleball: net, paddles, balls, a place to play, and a desire to have the most fun you’ve had in years!

You can play indoor or outdoor, on a flat surface that’s at least 20’ x 44’. That’s the official court size, but we recommend a little extra space all around the playing area for player movement.

Pickleball courts are the same size as badminton courts, so if you have access to badminton courts you’re in luck. Tennis courts can also easily be temporarily converted, and the USAPA has an easy-to-read article on how to do that here.

If you’re converting badminton or tennis courts for your game, you don’t need to worry about nets. If you’re setting up a new court from scratch then you will want to invest in portable net systems. They cost $160-170 and can be set up and taken in down in about 5 minutes and come with a carrying bag for transport/storage.

Paddles start at about $15 per paddle for wood paddles up to $100 per paddle for top-of-the-line graphite paddles. For kids and adults new to the game and only interested in casual play, wood paddles can suffice. Adults who want to play on a regular basis generally prefer composite or graphite paddles. Composite paddles start at about $50 and graphite paddles at about $60. Generally you would want a minimum of four paddles per court.

Pickleballs for indoor use start at $12.99 per dozen.  Outdoor balls are $24.99 per dozen.

So, a low-cost set of equipment with wood paddles to get you going would cost in the range of $250.  Not too bad to get started in the fastest growing sport in the U.S., now spreading like wildfire around the rest of the world!