YMCA adaptive pickleball clinic brings popular sport to local veterans

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, June 28, 2022

SALISBURY — A recent pickleball clinic at the Hurley YMCA helped bring the sport to yet another group of people.

The rising demand for the sport is seeing an endless conversion of underused tennis courts and new construction to build more venues people can play. It has proven popular with a lot of people, young and old, and the sport also works well when adapted for people who use wheelchairs for mobility.

The Friday clinic was targeted at local veterans who use wheelchairs, showing them the ropes of playing the game and giving them an opportunity to play regardless of experience level. The sport mixes elements from other sports. It uses smaller courts and slightly lower nets than tennis, paddles rather than racquets and a different ball design.

Twila Adams served in the Army. She helped organize the clinic for veterans who will go to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tempe, Arizona, at the request of her spinal nurse.

Adams said she was first exposed to the sport via a Veterans Affairs medical center clinic in Georgia in 2019. When she came home, she brought pickleball with her to Charlotte. She started looking for places to play and signed up for the Mecklenburg County Senior Games. She did well, signed up to compete, played at the state level and signed up to play in the mid-Atlantic regionals.

She demonstrated techniques throughout the clinic, like the underhand serve.

Adams competes in 10 different sports, including tennis, but what she enjoys more about pickleball is the social aspect. She said when she showed up to play at recreation centers in Charlotte people accepted and played with her, no questions asked, and taught her the sport.

She said Salisbury is an ideal place for an adaptive clinic for veterans because of the local V.A. facility and the number of veterans that come to the area because of it.

Alan Washington, a Navy veteran, participated in a clinic a few weeks ago in his sports chair and was so taken by the sport he got a good paddle and signed up to come to the clinic in Salisbury.

“One thing I love about pickleball is its starting out with able-bodied and people in wheelchairs playing together so you can always find someone to play with, Washington said.

He said the sport is easier to get into than others and indoor courts mean it can be played comfortably even when the weather is hot. The temperature peaked at about 90 degrees on Friday.

Wholesaler Galactic pickleball helped with the clinic. Galactic’s Bynum Tuttle said everyone has a story connected to the sport. He enjoyed getting into the sport and he said it helped him improve his health significantly over about 18 months.

“I used to be a gym rat, but after a hip replacement, knees and everything else, that was too much work to get the weight off,” Tuttle said. “Pickleball is healthy and you get exercise without even thinking about it. Every time you bend over to pick up a ball you get trunk exercise. You get cardiovascular exercise and a gamut of health benefits.”

He pointed to the friendly, social aspect of the game as well.

“People actually like each other,” Bynum said. “You play tennis, you walk off the court and don’t talk that much unless you went with your buddies. In pickleball you might go out to lunch with a group you played with.”

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About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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