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Senior center hosting pickle-ball clinic

WORTHINGTON --Randy Hall wasn't always a pickleball player.

But now, he's one of the best in the state.

Hall, who won multiple gold medals at the Minnesota Games, will be leading a pickleball clinic on Oct. 10 at the Worthington Area YMCA.

"I think there are some people who are really intrigued because it is a sport that the active older adults can play," said senior center coordinator Julia Seykora. "I think that intrigues and interests people. There are a lot of things you have to stop doing at a certain age.

"I think pickleball is easier and more appealing to that crowd. I think it's another reason to be social. You can come and join a group and be social. What if knitting or something is not your thing and you want to be a little more physical? This is a good way to do it."

For Hall, the transition was easy from racquetball.

"My racquetball partner who was a multi-national champion in many age groups quit racquetball and went to pickleball for a short time and then he invited me to play one day over at the city auditorium in Willmar," Hall said. "I said, 'OK, I'll play it.' At the time I was still playing racquetball and this was five or six years ago. I thought, 'Well, I'll play it for a while.' We gave up racquetball together and now we just play pickleball."

Hall is a retired special education instructor, so teaching is second nature. He has taught classes in Florida and all over Minnesota.

"I've played racquet sports and paddle sports all my life, so the game came pretty easy to me," Hall said. "I just wanted to send that knowledge on to other people."

Through the senior center, a group has been playing at the YMCA three times a week.

"We do have pickleball people who have been playing on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 to 10:30 at the YMCA," Seykora said. "We do have a few people who were just interested in getting taught the basics so they wouldn't feel nervous about joining the pickleball league."

Seykora is hoping the sessions will be useful for those interested in trying the sport.

"Some people would be walking by and they would be interested in joining the pickleball group, the people who are currently playing," Seykora said. "But I think you can pick out some of the people who have played racquet sports before. I think there was a little intimidation there."

Register by Friday by calling Seykora at (320) 293-3662 or the YMCA at 376-6197, ext. 230.

Hall will run two sessions on Oct. 10. The first, which begins at 11 a.m., is for the beginner player.

"It's going to be a general hands-on clinic," Hall said. "It's all drills and throwing balls at them and hitting balls at them. There's no sitting down and listening to me talk for a half an hour. I'm presenting them balls in different spots and areas to hit and where the best place to hit it is. That's basically the beginner class."

While the first class will focus on the fundamental strokes and the basic rules, the second session, which begins at 12:30 p.m., will focus more on strategy and partner play.

"In the advanced beginner, I'm going to assume they have some basic ground stroke knowledge and it's going to be more into strategy and how the partners play together," Hall said. "It's mainly a doubles game, and you need to work with your partner. One shot can set up another shot, and you need to work together with your partner."

Pickleball is a fast-growing game, according to Hall. And it's something the center has been working to promote.

"You have access to all the equipment to play pickleball," Seykora said. "So at this point, you don't have to purchase anything. We have racquets and all the nets and balls are provided. I think that's probably another appeal to people, too. They don't have to go out and spend $200 to be in the sport."

And for the active older adults, Hall said it's a good way to keep moving.

"A lot of people have the bad knees or the bad wheels and they kind of give up tennis and racquetball is out for them because that's a pretty fast game," Hall said. "Pickleball can be played by any generation and any age of people. Any type of people can learn to play the game. You don't have to run as far when you play doubles, and it's an easy game to pick up.

"Once you learn to play it, you can easily start hitting the ball back and forth. As your skill level increases, you learn more strategy and the game becomes even more fun."

But he hopes it's a game that will catch on with younger ages, as well.

"A lot of people think it's a silly little game," Hall said. "But I think once the young people start to play it, they are going to get into it. It is definitely an older-generation game right now. But it certainly is -- in the next few years -- going to develop downward with the younger people, I'm certain of that."

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Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.