FishHawk Pickleball players pose before their doubles match.

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in Central Florida and the FishHawk Ranch community is capitalizing on the sport’s popularity. FishHawk Ranch has a new Pickleball group that practices and plays regularly at Hawk Park. The group is part of the O.W.L.S. (Older Wiser Lively Seniors) of FishHawk Ranch. Headed by Jerry Winwood, the group has grown into more than 25 players in less than a year.

“Our group is full of active seniors that enjoy a little competition, but enjoy the camaraderie more. We are a social group that will play together and then go out to lunch or dinner afterwards. It’s a great group of beginner players. Anyone is welcome to join us.”

Winwood meant what he said. While bikers and walkers use the trail behind the courts, he invites anyone and everyone to take his paddles and give the sport a try. Many bystanders of all ages take him up on his friendly offer, “The more the merrier.”

Pickleball is similar to tennis, but uses a smaller more narrow court like badminton. Naples, Florida is home to the sport’s championship and recently hosted 2,000 players from 47 states and seven countries. The nearby retirement community north of Tampa, The Villages boasts nearly 100 Pickleball courts for their residents.

As of now, FishHawk Ranch has dedicated a Pickleball court behind the tennis courts at Hawk Park in Phase One of its community. Residents can check out the net for free from their Homeowners Association office or play with the group. The O.W.L.S have extra paddles and balls for new players to use. They practice every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Kevin Welsch, a resident of FishHawk Ranch who started playing Pickleball only a few months ago, said, “It’s a great way for my wife and I to stay active. It’s a friendly bunch. I’d like to see our group expand to more players, too.”

Because of the easy-to-learn rules, pace of the game and the size of the court, Pickleball is very popular with seniors.

Will Atchins is an active Pickleball player. He played tennis for many years, but has found this new sport to be just as fun and active.

“As a cancer survivor and 82 years young, Pickleball is a great alternative to tennis for me. The people in the group make it even better.”

To find out more about Pickleball in FishHawk Ranch, contact Jerry Winwood at pappyjerry@hotmail.com.