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At Boys & Girls Club, Seniors Teach Pickleball to a New Generation

March 11, 2019
Volunteer Richard Meehan teaches students how to serve in the sport of pickleball on Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LEOMINSTER -- Ginni Bilodeau has been playing pickleball for nearly two years and got her first opportunity to share the sport with a group she hasn’t played with before: children.

Bilodeau was one of six senior volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club Wednesday afternoon who helped more than 20 Fitchburg and Leominster students with basics, game play, and scoring.

“We all do it for the same reason,” the Leominster resident said. “We want to teach the next generation about the sport.”

At the beginning of the hour-long gym time, the students wielded paddles and hit green and orange Wiffle balls off the ceiling, out of bounds on the court, and into the net.

Marie Sullivan, another volunteer, gave them tips on how to serve and where to hit the ball to score a point.

“It’s about control,” Sullivan, who lives in Lancaster, told the students. “It’s putting the ball where the other person isn’t.”

For most of the children, it was their first time playing pickleball. By the end of the hour, some students were able to serve the ball over the net or return a serve.

Sullivan was part of the group that approached the club about using its gym for pickleball and teaching students how to play.

“It brings me back and it’s gratification when you’re doing something productive,” she said.

Since the program started in November, there have been about 800 players, or an average about 20 students each afternoon, said Ron Leger, a Leominster resident who is one of the pickleball coordinators for the Boys & Girls Club.

On top of playing pickleball several times each week, Leger enjoys coming to the club on Wednesday afternoons to work with the children.

“Any time you can volunteer, especially with a group of kids, it makes life much more energizing,” Leger said.

When the students play matches against each other, they often play doubles and rotate teams in if to make sure all the children get an opportunity to play. To help, there are two bins labeled “Winner” and “WannaBees” that house the paddles of which team will be up next.

Leger explained that there are no losers at Boys & Girls Club pickleball, only those who “wanna be” better players.

Leger was excited about T-shirts made for the students and volunteers that feature the club’s logo on the front and a pickle holding a paddle near a net on the back.

They were designed by graphic communications students at Monty Tech and screen printed at the school, he said.

Follow Mina Corpuz on Twitter @mlcorpuz.