America’s fastest-growing sport is a fun ‘fit’ for all ages

Mastic Beach takes the lid off pickleball

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Many people have found themselves in a pickle after coming out of the past couple of years of pandemic restrictions, carrying what has become known as the “Quarantine 15” (or more). It’s unsurprising that more than two years of stress, isolation, and living remotely has resulted in many looking for ways to get back into shape, while also doing some much-needed in-person socializing. This may be one of the reasons that pickleball is sweeping the nation as America’s fastest-growing sport. There are pickleball courts popping up all over our area, including three at the Mastic Recreation Community Center at 15 Herkimer Street, in Mastic.

One of those who recently discovered this fantastic way to stay fit with friends is Maura Spery, founder and president of the Mastic Beach Conservancy, and lifelong avid sports afficionado. The former Mastic Beach mayor has been looking for new ways to continue her zeal for athleticism while maintaining an active social life. As she ages gracefully, Spery wants to be mindful to not put excessive strain on her body, so that she can remain active for a long time to come.

The young-at-heart 60-something is someone who knows all about a variety of sports, so her seal of approval on pickleball is a resounding endorsement.

“I play everything: softball, track, basketball, flag football, soccer. I played soc cer for years and ruined my knee playing. [In pickleball], you run around plenty, but it’s just small, and easier because it’s so small,” she said of the novel sport she describes as a “fast-paced, big game of ping-pong.”

“My friends and I play tennis at the high school and at the recreation center in Moriches, and we love tennis; but I’m getting older, and tennis is very taxing on my 63-year-old body, and everyone’s talking about pickleball. I’m like, yeah, that seems good,” she added.

While the pickleball courts have been in Mastic Beach for about a year, Spery just began playing three weeks ago and is already hooked. She was tempted to keep the lid on this local treasure, so that the courts wouldn’t get too crowded, but knew she wanted to let the community in on this fabulous fitness craze.

“You probably have a lot of Type-A personality people, who are athletic, who played sports when younger, and this is such a great sport,” said Spery. “This is why there’s been such an explosion because you see all the ‘ok boomers’ playing.”

A self-professed “jock,” Spery, immediately saw the appeal in this drolly named game. The sporty sexagenarian was quick to point out that pickleball isn’t just for boomers looking to have a ball.

“A lot of my fellow Mastic Beach Conservancy board and members who have taken to it, they come down with the kids, and we’ll take the kids on a couple of courts, and us on another, so it really runs the gamut,” she said of the sport. “Most of them are in their 40s, and then I’m in my 60s. So, we have some other older people playing, but it’s great. It’s fantastic. Kids love it. What’s not to like?”