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

Pickles was the name of his family dog, who would steal the ball and hide it under the bushes.

According to the U.S. Pickleball Association, there are pickleball organizations in 26 states and four provinces in Canada and Mexico. Plotnik is listed as one of the ambassadors for the association.

Plotnik said his friend Dave Tatro, who lives part of the year in Florida, brought the game to the Capital District.

"In the Northeast, the game is pretty unknown, but in the senior communities down in Florida, it's like pickleball nirvana," Plotnik said.

Pickleball can be played anywhere there is a hard surface, from a basketball court to a cafeteria. At the Schenectady JCC, Plotnik uses caution tape to construct three courts in the gym.

Anyone who comes to play takes turns rotating into games. Each game is only played until 11 points, so play is quick.

The Capital District Pickleballers has been rapidly growing. Plotnik said there were 30 members in November; today there are more than 70, and new

people come to play each week.

Pickleball has been played at the Empire State Senior Games for the past three years. Last year, the Capital District Pickleballers won nearly every award.

Health care group CDPHP sponsors the Capital District Pickleballers. Craig Hayden, director of Medicare sales at CDPHP, said, "As an organization committed to the health and wellness of its members, CDPHP sees Pickleball as another opportunity for its Medicare Choice population to continue to live vibrant and healthy lives. We're pleased to be able to support our members in activities that provide both a physical and mental outlet for them to achieve this."

Many high schools are also offering pickleball in their physical education programs. Physical education teacher at Niskayuna High School Sarah Neely said the school has been teaching a pickleball unit for the past three years.

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