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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Pickleball tournament helps wheelchair team

TAMPA – Pickleball is one of the fastest growing games anywhere – but Russell Elefterion has even bigger ideas.

Pickleball is rapidly growing, especially among seniors. It is a game played indoors with a paddle and a hard wiffle ball, and about four pickleball courts fit in a standard basketball court. It is vigorous exercise without too much running – and it is booming in Hillsborough County.

In fact, Elefterion said, Hillsborough County is becoming the “pickleball capital of the world.''

The All People's Life Center, 6105 E. Sligh Ave., hosted the women's doubles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles for players 50 and older last week with all proceeds benefiting the Strongdogs Wheelchair basketball team. For the winners, it is only the first step to bringing the rest of the country to Hillsborough for tournaments.

There are pickleball courts all over the county and as the game grows, so will the tournaments. More than 75 players showed up for the event at All People's Life Center and they ranged in talent skills from 2.5 (basic) to 5.0 (professional). It was the first sanctioned tournament by the USAPA, the United States of America Pickleball Association.

Next up is a tournament for players aged 50 and older in September. It is also providing a pilot program for USAPA officials.

Elefterion is a volunteer after 35 years working for Hillsborough County. He was a tennis pro but has taken up pickleball, promoting it countywide. Pickleball will be part of the Tampa Bay Senior Games in Sun City Center, he said, and that is just the start.

“People, especially seniors, love this game,'' he said. “It's great exercise and it's a lot of fun.''

Elefterion can be reached at (813) 298-2022.

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