Equipment used in for playing pickleball. PHOTO BY ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Westford Joins the Pickleball Movement

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Alongside barbeques and sticky summer air, pickleball has arrived in Westford.

Put aside old Frisbees, volleyballs, and other summertime favorites, and pick up a pickleball racket to play an inventive game with much to offer. A sport turned rapidly-spreading-trend has become a popular activity for those looking to exercise, socialize, and even compete. Played with a wiffle ball as an intermediate form of tennis and table tennis, pickleball strikes a balance between pleasurable pastime and energetic work-out.

Ken Smith, a Westford resident who has been spearheading efforts to bring pickle-ball to Westford, explained that while pickleball is most popular with senior citizens, it has been recently drawing players of all ages. Pickleball’s biggest attraction, Smith said, is its reliance on “hand-eye coordination,” and both “physical and mental agility.”

Pickleball combines the fast-paced movement of tennis with the mental agility and concentration of table tennis to create a stimulating game. New pickleball players quickly become hooked, trading in leisurely matches for challenging tournaments.

This unique combination of strategy and skill largely drives an ever-increasing demand for new courts at Westford’s growing sports complex, the Mill Works. Filled with over a dozen basketball courts, a large theater-in-the-round, extensive yoga and fitness rooms, and now pickleball courts, the Mill Works is a local destination for engaging summer activities and community involvement.

Director of Operations Sandra Habe stressed the importance of “staying active longer,” and how the expansion of pickleball within the Mill Works dovetails with its mission — to foster opportunities for active individuals of all ages. Although one of the newer attractions, pickleball’s presence is not only diversifying the facility’s athletic offerings, but also the age demographics of the athletes, according to Habe. She noted that members of the Westford Senior Center were the first to request the inclusion of pickleball at The Mill Works. Habe, already familiar with the sweeping pickleball trend, was eager to include more courts to “recognize every generation of athletes.”

She emphasized that pickleball is such an addicting sport because of its social element, as evidenced by a higher frequency of doubles games than singles. Furthermore, Habe explained that an influx of senior athletes has not only enriched the Mill Works community, but also inspired newcomers to embrace physical activity and lead healthier lives.

Rather than meeting up at a restaurant, senior residents are becoming more likely to choose the pickleball court as a social hub of choice, both growing as athletes and building new friendships. Pickleball’s rising prominence has led Habe to express appreciation for the way the sport complements social and physical health within Mill Work’s “focus on wellness.”

Easy to learn and exciting to play, pickleball not only draws crossover tennis and table tennis players, but also Westford residents simply looking to try something new. Moreover, pickleball’s versatility encourages competition across different age ranges. Finally, as Ken Smith exclaimed, there is a sport, drawing players “from 8 to 80 years old,” one that grandparents can play alongside their grandchildren which satisfies a thirst for physical activity without ensuing exhaustion.

Drop in at the Mill Works, located at 22 Town Farm Road to play pickleball for only $5 with introductory membership.