VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Pickleball is gaining popularity, and it is not just a game for seniors.
News 3 met up with players and leaders at the Seatack Recreation Center on South Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach.
Players say it is like ping pong on steroids or a smaller version of tennis.
"I started playing it, and I fell in love with it," said Jim Dellinger, a pickleball player. He plays five days a week for two hours a day.
What started as a sport catered to seniors is now attracting younger racket enthusiasts.
It's a perfect socially-distant sport as players are spread out. They can also play outside.
"With COVID and our restrictions, pickleball is one of the activities that were allowed to offer," said Katherine Dunford, a Rec Specialist 1.
"This past year has been kind of strange because of the virus and all that, but it’s very social lots of friends," said Paul Thatcher, a pickleball player.
Thatcher said he lost 38 pounds with the help of playing pickleball.
He said it is the perfect way to socialize and work out.
Dellinger said it helps him with hand-eye coordination.
Leaders with the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Virginia Beach said more and more pickleballers are hitting the courts.
"It’s booming. It’s taken off, and it keeps taking off every year more and more. I see new faces coming all the time," said Dunford.
In fact, it's not just Virginia Beach seeing an increase. The USA Pickleball Association said it is the fastest growing sport with 4.2 million players. They reported in 2019, there’s been a 650% increase in membership in the past six years.
"It’s growing at the rec centers. We never have a hard time filling spots at any of the locations, so it seems like a lot of the patrons enjoy playing," said Frank Goessling, a Rec Specialist 1.
"I think it’s a fantastic sport. I get my exercise in; it’s easier on my joints," said Dunford.
The City of Virginia Beach offers pickleball at all of its recreation centers, and they have courses for beginners.