Retirees play pickleball for fitness, fun at YMCA of Greater Brandywine

Tamala Edwards Image
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Retirees play pickleball for fitness, fun at local YMCA
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to find a new hobby and be more active, the YMCA of Greater Brandywine might have just the winning combination.

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Linda and Jim Brobson are in a real pickle. With a score of 5-9-1, they're losing their first game of pickleball, but they're not worried about their competition on the court. The Brobsons play towards a comeback.

"Oh, we smoke them every day," says Linda Brobson through laughter.

The Brobsons joke, but since retiring last spring, they play pickleball five or six times a week as members of the Upper Main Line YMCA.

"It's addicting," says her husband, Jim Brobson. "And it's fun."

And the YMCA of Greater Brandywine's Director of Pickleball, Tim Irwin, says they're not alone in their pickleball addiction.

"The craze is growing," says Irwin. "It's exploding everywhere across the country."

Irwin says he thinks the sport has grown in popularity, because there are "a lot of ingredients that make pickleball user-friendly."

"Pickleball is a combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton," explains Irwin. "And it's really easy to get started."

Introductory clinics are offered once a week at five locations of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, and they're run by pickleball pros.

"And now we've got a highly instructional program going," says Irwin. "In an hour, we can get them playing at the beginner level."

People wanting to try pickleball don't need to come with a partner.

"You just come by yourself, and right away, they get introduced," says Irwin.

Two longtime Upper Main Line YMCA members, John Anderson and Fred Witzeling, got the pickleball program rolling about five years ago.

"I knew I could put a pickleball program together here and expand it," says Anderson.

Anderson says he asked Witzeling to help teach and Witzeling's been volunteering as a coach ever since. They've worked together to help promote and become ambassadors of the program.

"Pickleball is an interesting game," says Witzeling. "It's a game of strategy and ball placement."

Irwin explains pickleball is played with a paddle and a ball that is "like a wiffle ball."

"You start up close to the net, and you start kind of batting the ball back and forth. That's called dinking," says Irwin.

"I enjoy it," says Anderson.

"It's allowing people to really stay very active later in life," says Irwin.

The social aspect is a draw too.

"We've made so many new friends," says Linda Brobson. "It's really made my retirement enriched."

Irwin says if somebody is looking to "have fun and make friends," pickleball is the sport that will make that happen.

The YMCA of Greater Brandywine will be holding a free introductory pickleball clinic to learn the sport on Sunday, January 15, 2023, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Oscar Lasko YMCA in downtown West Chester.