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Courting whisperball: Center for Active Living offers new program for seniors

AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Julie Haas instructs fellow players on the rules and techniques of whisperball recently at the Center for Active Living in downtown Worthington.1 / 2
AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE June Winters plays whisperball recently at the Center for Active Living.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — A new game is available at the Center for Active Living (CAL). It’s called whisperball, which is very similar to racquetball.

“It’s played in the same court as racquetball,” said Julie Haas, who plays whisperball at the CAL. “But racquetball is such a fast-paced game that whisperball has been calmed down.”

Whisperball is played in the racquetball courts at the CAL and has a regular programming time.

“To play whisperball, we have whisperball programming time from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday,” CAL Director Kris Hohensee said. “So anybody who is a member here is free to use the whisperball at that time.”

In many ways, whisperball and racquetball are similar.

“The only other difference is —the rules are the same — the difference is they are giving you time to do things,” Haas said. “Like in racquetball, you get one bounce, in whisperball you get two.”

The equipment is also a little different.

“Racquetballs are a round rubber ball, a whisperball is like a Nerf ball, but a dense Nerf ball,” Haas said. “If you play racquetball, if you get hit with the ball, you could get bruises. Well, you don’t get that from a whisperball.

“They do recommend eye protection, but most seniors wear glasses.”

The rules are posted outside the courts at the CAL. However, only one sheet is needed to explain how to play.

“There are really not a lot of rules — it’s easier than pickle-ball, rules-wise,” Haas said. “You get two bounces and there are a few differences. Because it’s such a soft ball, you’re probably not going to get the serve past the service line on one bounce. The second bounce has to be past the service line. Other than that, if you can play racquetball, you can play whisperball in about three minutes. If you haven’t, it’s probably going to take you five.”

Haas has experience on the courts.

“I played a lot of racquetball 30 years ago,” she said. “I don’t know if I could play it now. I play pickle-ball a lot, but there again, pickle-ball is a senior game.”

Much like pickle-ball — which is a popular game for older active adults — whisperball can be as strenuous as a person wants to make it.

“I think it’s sort of how much work you want to put into it. It’s sort of like aerobics,” Haas said. “You can go to aerobics and (work hard) or not. I think in whisperball, if you’re willing to hustle a little bit and you still have a little bit of that left in you, you can break a sweat. But you can also have a very leisurely game. This is like rally serving. Games are to 11, and there’s a score after every rally. The games are very quick. It doesn’t take all day to get a game played.”

“It’s very age friendly,” Hohensee added.

Whisperball is a game that hasn’t caught on quite yet.

“We really haven’t started whisperball here yet,” Haas said. “We’re trying. We’re having a workshop. We haven’t found people in the state who play enough to come down and do a clinic.”

The workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 8.

“Anybody who wants to learn beforehand or give it a try, we have rackets here and balls. We have people willing to play with you,” Hohensee said.

“I’d be willing to show them the rules, but I, by no means, can teach techniques,” Haas said. “I haven’t done it. I don’t know if a ceiling shot works in whisperball. I know it does in racquetball, but I haven’t played enough to know.”

As for space, utilizing the extra courts will allow more people the opportunity to stay active.

“One thing, too, that was nice is we only have two courts for pickle-ball here,” Hohensee said. “If we have 15 people, that’s way too many and there are a lot of people sitting around. We can go back and forth. If we can get enough people who learn how to play this, they can do either one.”