Pickleball coach Russell Elefterion 'excited' to expand sport in Black Mountain
BLACK MOUNTAIN - The ability to wake up a mile from a pickleball court is the love of Russell Elefterion’s life, he says. More courts are 45 minutes away in Hendersonville to play top-tier talent.
Elefterion earned a bronze medal at the 2018 U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, and has participated at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. Now, he holds pickleball games and lessons at the Creekside Racquet Club in Black Mountain every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He said he’s been successful in bringing his love to his new home after moving his company, Suncoast Pickleball, from Tampa Bay and Sarasota.
“This has been incredible,” Elefterion said. “I had some hope once people started showing up, and now, with the program, we have over 100 members.”
Once the club expands its four pickleball indoor courts to six additional outdoor courts, Elefterion expects membership to expand to over 200.
Though the sport has been popular with seniors since its inception, Elefterion says he hopes to expand to a younger audience as students are handling at-home learning.
The ability to leave home and still participate in sports is an opportunity for the sport to grow, he added.
“The sport is really growing with the youth,” Elefterion said. “It’s America’s fastest-growing sport. It’s only a matter of time before we have a widespread player base.”
While visiting a friend in Black Mountain in 2012, Elefterion saw an opportunity to buy a home on Lake Tomahawk. He later saw another opportunity as a full-time position at the racquet club, offering his favorite sport to locals.
Elefterion said he is offering free lessons by his home on Lake Tomahawk.
“I’m able to do what I love almost immediately after leaving my house,” he said. “It’s almost surreal, considering how new this sport is.”
Pickleball, invented in 1965, can be played in singles or in doubles. Players hold lightweight paddles and use whiffle balls. The ball is served and must be hit over the net by opposing players before either side can move closer toward the net.
Elefterion says his top teams are traveling to compete in national tournaments.
And he hopes to continue growing the sport in Black Mountain.
“We’re expanding and we’re expecting more members,” Elefterion said. “Imagine the opportunity with all of Black Mountain getting into pickleball.”