Bob Versalie says he was a “pretty decent” tennis player until the day he hurt his shoulder.
At about the same time, someone told him about the game of pickleball. He did some research, found a local couple who gave lessons, and visited friends in the northern part of the state whose development had pickleball courts.
Versalie, 84, learned that regardless of his injury, he can play the sport.
That was more than two years ago. The Coral Lakes resident has been championing for pickleball courts at the suburban Boynton Beach community since then and he is happy to say this month they celebrated the courts’ opening with a ribbon cutting.
Residents have taken a liking to the sport, and on a weekday morning the courts are full and booming with energized players older than 50. The interest in the sport is spreading, and Versalie is working to create a pickleball league with about a dozen other suburban Boynton communities.
“We want to have competition between clubs,” Versalie said.
Versalie said he and the group think this is the first attempt by communities in South Florida to create a competitive league like this. The communities involved include Villaggio Reserve, Lakes of Delray, Valencia Reserve and Kings Point.
The season will start in January and will run through March.
Pickleball is a mix of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong, with players using paddles to hit the ball.
It took a while to get the courts built at Coral Lakes, but Versalie has a group of residents he calls “pickleball pioneers” who have stuck with him since the beginning. Before the courts were built, Veralie wanted to prove to the board that residents would be interested so he and the pioneers played on the paddleboard courts.
Now, the community has two pickleball courts that are asphalt and have seven layers of acrylic paint on top. There’s a shaded area for players to sit while waiting their turn. In the future, that area will have a fan and a water fountain, and the seating area will be brick. The courts were about $55,000 and were paid for by the residents’ assessments, Versalie said.
Versalie and Phil Fetzer, 70, teach the residents how to play. Soon, they’ll start offering clinics.
Marvin Shapiro, 85, said he had his right shoulder and right knee replaced, but is able to play the sport.
“You don’t have to cover too much ground,” Shapiro said of why he likes the game. “You don’t run out of steam so fast.”
Roselyn Burman, 79, said playing pickleball has improved her tennis game because it helps develop eye-hand coordination.
“I’ve taken to this like a duck takes to water,” she said.
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