Although Jim Super, 70, of Sauk Centre learned how to play pickleball 10 years ago, he doesn’t feel he has much of an advantage over his friends, Loren Wiener, 71, and Glen Hiltunen, 65.
But then again, it doesn’t matter as playing pickleball is just a fun activity that has so much to offer, he said.
“It’s just fun playing with your friends and it is good exercise. As you get older, it’s also a lot easier on the joints and you don’t have to run as far,” Super said.
It’s also not as hard on their shoulders and elbows as the majority of shots are made with an underhand motion rather than above shoulder height.
“Since it’s easier on the shoulders and elbows, healthwise, I think it is better for us,” he said.
Playing pickleball is also a great way to get out of the house, especially during the cold winter months when there isn’t a whole lot else to do, said Hiltunen.
Hiltunen started playing pickleball a couple of years ago and enjoys the competition and the friendships that are formed.
During the winter months, he and the others joined the pickleball winter league — an activity Community Education Director Brent Lieser was instrumental in starting, he said.
“In the winter, it was something to look forward to,” he said.
The friendships that are formed can help in other areas of their lives as well. It gives them an opportunity to share if something is bothering them.
“You can sense it,” Super said.
Other times any stress they experience may be shown by how hard they hit the ball, he said.
It also gives them the opportunity to learn more about one another. Wiener dairy and crop farmed for many years until he retired about 20 years ago to care for his wife who had been diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, she lived, he said.
In addition to playing pickleball, Wiener also rides bicycle, plays volleyball and runs 5Ks and 10Ks.
Wiener said since quick reflexes are necessary in the game, his college years of playing ping pong for fun on campus comes in handy. Of all of the students, he ranked third.
“I was the number three player. There were two I could never beat,” he said.
But even so, in a game of pickleball, anything is possible. The competitiveness with the element of surprise makes it even more fun.
“Everybody’s eye and hand coordination is different. For some people, you smoke it by and the next thing you know, it is coming right back at you,” Super said.
Although the three men all get competitive during a game, they also joke frequently and give each other a hard time every so often. It makes playing pickleball even more fun, they said.
One joke is referred to as “staying out of the kitchen,” meaning to stay out of the no volley zone, which is one of the rules of the game.
“But the concept of staying out of the kitchen is something I think every man knows about,” Wiener said.
When they meet to play pickleball, they try to pair up evenly, but it really comes down to how many show up.
As of now, the group plays pickleball at the tennis court near Sauk Centre High School, Tuesdays and Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and Wednesdays, from 6 p.m. to about 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to join.
“Just show up and bring a paddle and a ball,” Super said.