ALBANY -- Heather Robinson first played Pickleball in Rossmoor.
In her younger years, Albany's adult sports coordinator used to play basketball and soccer, but a knee injury made it harder and harder for the 36-year-old to compete in the sports she loved.
"I'm 36," she said. "But I may have the joints of a 50-year-old."
Robinson was immediately hooked and decided to bring the sport to Albany.
"It's lower impact," she said. "I found out it's a growing sport with older people. What's cool about the sport is that you don't need to be super, super-mobile and you don't need power. It's about placement and technique."
In May, Robinson began holding open Pickleball games on the tennis courts at Ocean View Park. The games are 6 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday, with a daily charge of $5 for adults or $3 for seniors, and $2 paddle rental. All ages are welcome but seniors are especially encouraged to give it a try.
So what is Pickleball? And what's with that name?
The game was invented in 1965 in Washington state by Joel Pritchards, a state legislator, and Bill Bell. It can be played outdoors on tennis courts, or indoors on a badminton court.
Pritchards and Bell took wooden paddles, a Wiffle ball and a badminton court with a lowered net and created the game. Pritchards' cocker spaniel Pickles immediately took a liking to the game and began stealing the ball every chance he got. Which is why Pritchards named the game,
"It's kind of like a combination of tennis and Ping-Pong," Robinson said. "It's superfast like Ping-Pong, but a bigger area like tennis."
The rules are available at the official Pickleball website (www.uspa.org). The game can be played as either singles or doubles. The serve is underhanded and the opposition must play the serve on one bounce.
After that, sides can play the ball either on the fly or on one bounce. However, teams cannot "volley" the ball (hit it on the fly) within seven feet of the net, an area called, "the kitchen."
These rules reduce the power advantage of sports such as tennis and allow players with lesser skills to compete on an equal footing. Robinson said this is what makes the sport ideal for seniors.
"It's a real good beginner sport," she said. "We have a lot of people come out who don't feel comfortable joining a soccer team. It's a real good environment for first-time athletes. It's also our first offering for seniors."
Robinson added, "We've had a lot of players from a former women's soccer team. They played soccer together for over 10 years. They can't play soccer anymore. They are all in their mid to late 60s. It's really popular with former athletes, as well, who haven't found a sport they can do (as they age)."
Learn more at www.albanyca.org/adultsports.