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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

An illustrious past meets an exceptional future. We are committed to creating meaningful lives of purposeful engagement for every resident as well as those who serve them.

Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pickleball project earns retirement community residents a spot on TV

Bill and his team of pickleball enthusiasts are local celebrities, after a feature on Westminster at Lake Ridge’s new pickleball court aired on WJLA News 7 in July. They may have made a convert to the game in Eileen Whelan, the reporter who interviewed Bill.

Pickleball, a racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, is a pastime Bill discovered when he was visiting a cousin in Phoenix seven years ago.

“I’d never seen it before, but it was pretty well developed there,” Bill says. “It’s very easy to learn and play.”

Bill tried the game and liked it. When he returned to Northern Virginia, he found several places around the area to play and started thinking, “Could I build a court here at Lake Ridge?”

The retirement community’s tennis court had fallen into disuse, and it occurred to Bill that he might be able to convert one end into a pickleball court, which is about 1/3 the size of a tennis court.

“I got some tape and made lines on the old surface,” he says. “I filled a 55-gallon drum full of water, tied the net to it and tied the other end to the fence.”

That court worked for a year or so, until the tape began to peel. Bill installed some painted lines and got a portable net, along with another net to section off the court and prevent the ball from going to the other end of the tennis court.

After several more years, Bill was able to recruit some of his fellow residents and even taught some staff members to play the game. As the game’s popularity grew, it became obvious that the players needed a better court.

Now they have one.

“I did some research and found that we could get a court made of plastic tiles that we could lay over the tennis court,” he says. “It’s beautiful—maroon and green, with white lines, and it’s guaranteed to last for 16 years.”

Bill has played pickleball competitively, at Senior Olympics and another senior event, and he decided to set up staff-resident tournaments at the retirement community.

A local newspaper got wind of the latest one, held in May. The TV station later decided they wanted to do a feature on pickleball, which seems to be peaking in popularity across the country.

The station sent Eileen Whelan out on July 14 to tape two pickleball segment. She played doubles with Bill and two other residents, and interviewed the retirement community’s Executive Director, Libby Bush.

“I can’t tell you what a best-practice example this is of engaged living,” Bush said on camera. She talked about the incredible volunteers who accomplish projects like the pickleball court on the community’s behalf, and how it’s important to everyone to reach out and engage the surrounding community as well.

Bill and his wife Jane have lived at Westminster at Lake Ridge for the past 11 years, and they’ve been active in the life of the community the whole time. Bill has been president of the resident association, sings in the choir and plays in the kitchen band, and takes a karaoke machine to the Health Services Center to sing old-fashioned songs with the residents. He also started a men’s kaffee klatsch on Wednesday mornings.

“We share some good things that happened to us in the past week,” Bill says. “That’s hard for men to do, but they’ve learned to have something to bring. Then we tell jokes and discuss some kind of topic for the rest of the time.”

“I love it here,” he says. “I call it a cruise ship on the ground. You have all these activities. There’s something to do all the time.”

Obviously, Bill is a pretty persuasive fellow who’s good at getting people engaged. He’s hoping the pickleball story on TV will bring new attention to the sport and draw some new players to the court.

His newest convert is Whelan, the TV reporter.

“Pickleball has become my new favorite sport,” she says.

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