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Evansville resident Rich Couture stood waiting, racket in hand Tuesday morning at the Physical Activity Center on the University of Southern Indiana campus, for his turn to play his favorite sport - pickleball. "I grew up playing racquetball and tennis, handball and all those things," Couture said. "But as I got older, I kept hurting myself with all those things."
Then last fall, he discovered pickleball.
"I quickly checked it out and got signed up to play," he said. "It's a very fast game. It's like playing table tennis where you're standing on the table."
Couture, 72, also got his wife into playing pickleball, and now they play together as partners.
"It gives us a chance to do something like that together," he said. "There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle."
Another piece? Not only does it keep him exercised, but it also helps his diabetes.
"If I exercise strenuously, my sugar count goes down," Couture said. "It's got some fun aspects to it, but it's also quite utilitarian."
Evansville pickleball players were on hand Tuesday at USI to teach a younger generation how to play.
Some pickleball players who went up against USI students will compete at the Indiana State Games - Fit & 50, which will be held May 15-23 in Evansville. Formerly known as the River City Games, the Indiana State Games - Fit & 50 are sponsored locally by SWIRCA & More.
The athletic events for participants age 50 and older include competition in swimming, track and field, shuffleboard, bowling, tennis, table tennis, cycling, golf, three-on-three basketball, and pickleball
USI assistant professor of gerontology Katie Ehlman brought the idea of intergenerational games to SWIRCA.
"It's a good opportunity to pull the generations together," Ehlman said. "It allows students to see the older generation living well and being healthy."
She said she thinks this is the first ever intergenerational game in the area.
Four girls from one USI gerontology class watched a video on pickleball and decided to give it a try.
"I wore a sweatshirt, and that wasn't the best idea," USI senior Colleen Schoenecker said. "I'm sweaty."
"Yeah, this paddle is heavy," sophomore Nicole Borgic said. "My forearm is sore."
Schoenecker said she had fun playing.
"Our goal is to get a trophy," she said. "But we're not going to get it."
The pickleball players from the C. K. Newsome Center take the game seriously, she said.
"They had lots of patience and tolerance with us," Schoenecker said.
Dick LeDuc helped bring pickleball to Evansville. He learned it while staying at The Villages in Central Florida.
"There's about 90,000 people that live there, and you need to know that because there are 145 pickleball courts," LeDuc said. "It's the second most-popular sport out there. It's the fastest growing family sport in the country."
LeDuc asked the C. K. Newsome Center if he could start a pickleball program there.
"They were very open to start the program," he said. "It's being expanded into the community."
LeDuc calls himself the pickleball ambassador for the Evansville area.
He started with about 15 people playing, but now, he has taught more than 100 people - about 60 of the players are regulars at the Newsome.
The Indiana State Games - Fit & 50 pickleball games will be at 9 a.m. May 19 at USI's Physical Activities Center.