Pickleball gaining popularity on the Coast

Pickleball gaining popularity on the Coast

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A sport growing in popularity is quickly taking over the Coast, but it may not be the first activity that comes to mind.

"One of my racquetball buddies came (to me)," Coast resident Jerry Hodges said. "He said, have you heard about pickleball?"

Yes, pickleball. A sport with a unique name is giving area senior citizens a golden opportunity to get out and compete.

"A lot of people that played any kind of a paddle sport or a racket sport, it's very good for them because it's not as high-impact as tennis as well as racquetball," said Tom Linenberger, an ambassador for the U.S. Pickleball Association.

"It's a lot easier on your body to play it (than other paddle sports), and it's just a wonderful game," Hodges said.

Saturday, the Donal Snyder Community Center in Biloxi hosted a pickleball tournament featuring 55 participants from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. This marks a far cry from the sport's anonymity in the area just a few years ago.

"There were about six or eight of us that played," area pickleball player Linda Perkes said. "We would have to call and make sure there were enough people to play and sometimes there weren't."

"Two years ago, there was only two places to play on the Coast, now there's ten," Linenberger said. "We're the largest concentration of Pickleball players in the entire state."

The popularity isn't going unnoticed. For the first time, the Mississippi State Games in May include the competition sport of pickleball, tabbing Biloxi as the host city for those events. If you ask the players, it's a perfect fit.

"I think what's significant about Biloxi, Mississippi is it's very welcoming, the people who play pickleball are just great people," Hodges said.