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Having a ball: A dog, a congressman, and the desire for a game for all ages leads to pickleball

For active seniors, nothing can be more frustrating than realizing your age. Reaching that moment when you have to stop doing something you love can be heartbreaking.

Pickleball, a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong, is a new game that has attracted a following of people across the Capital District. The game gives seniors the opportunity to stay active without putting too much stress on their bodies.

Bill Purdy, 73, has been playing the game for five years. He has won numerous titles at the Empire State Senior Games and is a member of the Capital District Pickleballers. In his youth, Purdy was an avid tennis player, but had to give up the sport because of a pulmonary problem.

It takes eight steps to cross a tennis court, it only takes one or two steps to cross a pickleball court and I can handle that, Purdy said.

Pickleball is played on a court the size of a badminton court, 20 feet by 44 feet. The net is hung 36 inches at each side of the court and 34 inches in the middle.

The game is played using a paddle that is longer than a ping-pong paddle and a modified wiffle-ball.

Pickleball is not a game of strength or endurance, but of patience and strategy, and it's not just for seniors.

Tim Macfarlane, 28, and Brandon Alois, 28, both of Schenectady, play pickleball every Tuesday evening at the Jewish Community Center in Niskayuna. They started playing two months ago and haven't missed a week. Macfarlane said they regularly get beat by guys twice their age.

"Age means nothing in this game. Athletic ability doesn't matter, that's what makes it so fun," Macfarlane said.

Reaction time and putting the ball in the right spot at the right time is what is really important in the game.

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