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If you’re looking for a fun sport to play, Ken “Pickleball Ken” Marquardt said he knows one where you can’t go wrong.Everybody can play pickleball, Marquardt said.“Pickleball is just like tennis only smaller, just like ping-pong, only bigger,” he said.Pickleball is a racquet sport played with solid paddles and a perforated ball that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.There was only one place in Denver to play the sport back when Marquardt first started playing in 2010. Now, seven years later — and with plenty of encouragement from Marquardt himself — there are 71 places to play in the Denver metro area.Three of these are located in Westminster and one in Thornton.Westminster Recreation Center, located on Sheridan Boulevard, offers drop-in pickleball Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-5 p.m. Players sit in chairs lining the side of the court and chat with each other while waiting for their turn to play in one of the four courts.Rules are similar to tennis and can be played by singles or doubles. All serves must be made underhanded and the receiving team must let the ball bounce once before they return it. If they do, the serving team has to let the return bounce once as well.After that, teams can hit the ball before or after it bounces. They can only hit the ball before it bounces if they are at least seven feet from the net, however.Points are scored by the serving team and the game is played to 11 — as long as the winning side wins by two points.New sport, new peoplePickleball isn’t just about health and exercise. It’s also about creating friendships, healing wounds and helping others.“My favorite thing is the people and the camaraderie, meeting new people and playing with new people,” said player Sharon Edwards. “You play with somebody different all the time”.“Pickleball changed my life because I retired about three years ago, and I wasn’t sure what I would do to meet new people once I had retired,” Edwards added.Alice Salonya said “You get to know so many people and they are all so friendly and they all want to have a good time. It’s the best thing since retirement.”“Pickleball is like a friendly community,” explained Marquardt. “We support each other through the hard times. If one of our member’s spouses dies, we take meals over, take them to the hospital.”Pickleball can also help people live better, Marquardt insists.“Our club has 18 people who have Parkinson’s,” he said. “We have one lady who if she doesn’t play four times a week, she gets the shakes. It just totally changes people’s lives.”Marquardt and other players are committed to changing lives through pickleball.“We have a Pickleball for Heroes Tournament,” Marquardt said. “That’s for our Colorado veterans with traumatic brain injury. Our first year was in 2015 and we had 250 players and we raised $43,861, and last year we had 300 players and we raised over $70,000. And 100 percent of that money goes to the veterans. We don’t take anything out.”Pickleball isn’t just for retirees, but also for families or anyone who is interested in meeting new people and supporting the community and others in a fun way.For more information, go to http://pickleballken.org/wpscripts/facilities.html to find a pickleball court near you.
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