Pickleball: Sally Annendleman adds sport to lifestyle

Who says learning a new sport and being active has to be for children, or even young adults for that matter?

Milford’s Sally Annendleman, who is in her 70s — she leaves a little guesswork there — recently began taking pickleball lessons at Wolfe Park in Monroe. Annendleman is learning the game from Mary Martinik, a 64-year-old certified International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association instructor, who has played in tournaments on the local, regional and even national level.

“I enjoy it very much. I like getting out and using my body and feeling active and alive. It is a fun game,” said Annendleman, who also does yoga and rides her bicycle.

Annendleman is retired. She was a potter and opened a gallery, eventually got into retail with jewelry and clothing, and owned a boutique. Now, one of her passions is pickleball.

“A lot of older people are playing it,” Annendleman said, adding that when attempting to join a group in Florida where she spends her winter months, the seasoned pickleballers said she needed to first learn the game.

“I wanted to join and they told me I needed to take lessons. They wouldn’t let me join until I took a class. It’s something I look forward to doing when I get back down there,” she said.

The good news, Martinik notes, is that it is a game anybody can learn.

“It’s never too late to start,” said Martinik. “People can pick up the basics of the sport on their own, but it pays to have lessons. You can learn so much that will get you to your end goal of being proficient in less time. Sometimes we establish bad habits that are hard to break.”

So what is pickleball?

Pickleball is known as a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton. Most similar to tennis, the sport requires paddles that are smaller than tennis racquets and is played with a Wiffle-like ball. The court is significantly smaller than a tennis playing surface.

Area parks have designated pickleball courts and lines have been added to some tennis courts for multi-sport use.

In addition to the obvious benefit, exercise, pickleball offers more.

“There are so many parts to it that are wonderful. All the camaraderie, the people you meet, the exercise you get. It gets you outside,” Annendleman said.

“Because the court is so small you have four people within conversation distance and the conversation and the socialization is paramount,” Martinik said.

Martinik, who taught pickleball to high school students during her school teaching days, said, “The game is a great option for all ages. Seniors like it as an alternative to tennis, because it is less demanding on the body.”

A pickleball player for about four and a half years, Martinik attended the US Open Pickleball Championships in Florida in April.

During competition in the Connecticut State Games this year, Martinik won gold in singles and doubles play, and qualified for the National Senior games to be held in Albuquerque, N.M., next June. Martinik had a hat-trick qualification of sorts, making the cut for women’s doubles, mixed doubles and singles.

A strong athlete in college, Martinik played softball and was a gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. She is still a competitive softball player and earned MVP honors in leading her team to the 60-plus division to the championship at the International Senior Softball Association World Cup Softball Tournament.