Coconut Creek serves up weekly pickleball play

Michael Niss and his wife, Daniella, are relative newcomers to the sport of pickleball, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them play in the weekly games at the Coconut Creek Community Center.

The Parkland residents are among the 25 or so enthusiasts who play Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

“It is as competitive as you want it to be,” said Michael Niss, 53, who started playing with his wife seven months ago. “That is one of the nice things about the sport. Every time we come, we see other beginners and also those who have been playing for a while.”

With the players’ wide range of skills, the Nisses can team up with the right opponent.

“You can always find someone to play against you,” Niss said. “Usually the more experienced players are very generous with their time to help the new players. It helps us to develop our talents, and we can learn [new things] that we can then pass on to other newcomers we play against.”

Niss said there are three categories of players in the sport: beginners, experienced and competitive, players who play in tournaments.

“As long as you stay within one of those groups, you will always have a competitive match,” he said. “One of the reasons the game exists is because it is inviting to the older and less mobile players. We have played against people in their 80s who are really good. They didn’t have to run. They barely moved an ounce, and they just stood there and hit some great shots.”

Daniella Niss, 49, said her sister from Maine told her about the sport.

“We found out about some pickleball down here and we started playing,” said Daniella Niss, who with her husband plays in Boca Raton and Parkland along with Coconut Creek. “The best part is that it is great cardio.”

The Coconut Creek Community Center (1100 Lyons Road) hosts open pickleball play twice a week. The program, which began in September, is for men and women age 18 and older.

The sport is a mix of table tennis, tennis, racquetball and badminton. It can be played singles or doubles. Players use oversized table tennis paddles and a whiffle ball that moves slower than a tennis ball.

Coconut Creek’s Prem Dhotre, 72, is a former tennis player who was recently introduced to pickleball.

“I have a lot of fun here,” Dhotre said. “I am getting used to it. The racquet is different.”

Fellow Coconut Creek resident Jerry McCarthy, also 72, has played for nearly two years. He said it is fast like tennis, only easier to learn.

“You don’t need a tremendous amount of athletic ability, and it is good for people who are 50 and older,” McCarthy said.

“It is great exercise and cardiovascular. I think it is the fountain of youth,” he said.

“We saw how well it was going in other cities, and we had some residents that wanted to get it started,” said Joy Mastrocola, the senior recreation programmer for the city of Coconut Creek. “It is a lot of fun. They are active, and they have a lot of fun with the sport.”

Mastrocola said she would like to have more people try it and eventually hold tournaments. The city provides paddle and balls, or the participants can bring their own equipment.

“A lot of people who are older maybe don’t play tennis anymore, so they are able to do this because it is not as strenuous as tennis,” Mastrocola said. “We do want to do this year-round.”

Cost to play is $2 per session for Coconut Creek residents and $4 for nonresidents. There is no charge to those in the city’s Silver Sneakers, Fitness Club or Senior Club programs.

For more information, call 954-545-6670.

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