May 19, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A local nonprofit wants to keep some of the borough’s underprivileged children in good health by promoting exercise via a new sport.
The Floating Hospital, a Long Island City-based organization that provides healthcare services to underserved communities, will soon be coaching some of the city’s homeless children how to play a unique racket sport.
The sport, called pickleball, is a cross between tennis, ping pong and badminton. It is growing in popularity because it is considered to be easy to play, and people of nearly all skill levels can participate.
Several healthcare specialists who work at the Floating Hospital will learn the game themselves next Wednesday and, in turn, teach the children how to play. The non-profit serves nearly 5,000 children across the city who are homeless.
The healthcare educators will be coached by Dr. Rommie Maxey, the 2019 U.S. Open pickleball champion, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — the home of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship — in Flushing Meadows.
The training educators will coincide with the first New York City Pickleball Open, which will take place at the famed venue next week. Around 2,000 athletes are expected to take part in the tournament.
Pickleball involves hitting a wiffle ball over a net—and the game is for two of four players. A court looks like a small tennis court, although it is lined like a badminton court. Players use paddles that are slightly smaller than tennis racquets.
The overall aim of the pickleball initiative is to keep the children healthy and active by encouraging them to take up the sport.
“Outside of getting them fresh food, our number one challenge is providing young people with exercise options that are easy, free and fun,” said Sean T. Granahan, president of the Floating Hospital.
“Pickleball can do that in a fun, communal setting. It’s something kids can do together, pretty much anywhere.”
The educators will hone their skills and then teach around 100 homeless children to play the game, according to the organization. They hope to teach more children the sport over time.
Richard Porter, president of InPickleball, a magazine dedicated to pickleball, said that young people can pick up the basic skills of the sport quite quickly.
“By showing these kids a simple way to better health, we can make meaningful progress toward health equity in New York.”
“Pickleball is about the things our world needs most today – health, joy and togetherness.”