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After moving to Black Mountain last spring, Jay Massey looked for activities to help her acclimate to her new residence. An active and sociable person and a longtime tennis player, Massey had tried out the sport of pickleball before she moved from Raleigh to Highland Farms Retirement Community. She went to Asheville to play with an organized group there at a recreation center, and quickly found her need for friendly fellowship and physical activity satisfied.

Now, at almost 90, Massey plays pickleball in Asheville three times a week. Like others, she would like to see interest in the sport grow in the Swannanoa Valley. And she’s found it in the gym of the Carver Center in Black Mountain.

Thursday morning games at the center are planting seeds for pickleball growth. The sport is one of the the fastest-growing activities in the country, according to the website athleticbusiness.com.

Pickleball is a mix of tennis, paddleball and badminton. Through the country, it’s played at recreation centers, YMCAs, fitness clubs, churches and on tennis and basketball courts indoors and out wherever a 20- by 44-foot court is available.

Pickleball, created with fun in mind, was designed to be easy to learn and play for anyone of any age. Typically played by four people at a time, it’s also designed to be social.

Several years back, after hearing about the sport from friends in other locations, Black Mountain resident Carolyn Johnson began talking with the town’s recreation department about bringing the sport here. At that time, few people were interested in the sport.

Now, however, interest in the community has grown, so much so that the Carver Center since January has made experienced players and equipment available on its gymnasium court from 10 a.m.-noon on Thursdays. There’s no cost to play and learn about the sport, rules and technique. The court size at Carver Center is not large enough to allow for traditional game play, so the recreation department is looking for an outdoor location.

Pickleball was a good fit for Massey, a former tennis coach who likes that the game is not as big a time commitment as traditional tennis. “Since you play to 11 points, games average around 30 minutes each,” she said. She has seen tremendous improvement in flexibility among those she plays with, she said. Many of her fellow players are former tennis players.

Johnson hopes to play the game in her own driveway with her grandchildren as they get older. Massey too hopes to see interest in the sport grow locally so she can play more in her community. For more about the pickleball program, contact the Carver Center at 669- 5213.

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