Good exercise, great fun: Vi at the Glen residents stay active playing pickleball

  • When Jim Good and Gil Haggart moved to Vi at the Glen, a Glenview senior living community, they were looking for ways to stay active. What they found was pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S.

    When Jim Good and Gil Haggart moved to Vi at the Glen, a Glenview senior living community, they were looking for ways to stay active. What they found was pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Courtesy of Vi at the Glen

  • When Jim Good and Gil Haggart moved to Vi at the Glen, a Glenview senior living community, they were looking for ways to stay active. What they found was pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S.

    When Jim Good and Gil Haggart moved to Vi at the Glen, a Glenview senior living community, they were looking for ways to stay active. What they found was pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Courtesy of Vi at the Glen

 
 
Updated 10/20/2021 6:49 PM

Jim Good was in a quandary as he moved with his wife Ann into Vi at the Glen 18 months ago.

"I came here thinking I'm a fairly active guy," the 84-year-old retired insurance agent said. "What in the world am I going to do?"

 

Well, there's the garden, "where me and the weeds are doing great." Golf, biking, and cross-country skiing. And that's just for starters.

Around the same time, Gil Haggart, 80, was asking the same question. "I really didn't want to come here to Vi at the Glen for a long time," said the retired independent insurance broker and Big Ten basketball referee. But now, as he scores it, "on a one to ten, I'm an 18. They have everything here -- all kinds of programs and activities."

Haggart and Good have something else in common, too. Four and five years ago, respectively, both discovered pickleball. A hybrid of tennis, badminton, Ping-Pong and paddle tennis, it is the fastest growing sport in America, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Played with wooden paddles and a form of Wiffle ball, it can be played on indoor or outdoor courts, on the beach or on the street. And because it is not expensive to play and does not have to be a taxing game physically, it appeals to older generations as well as younger folk.

"You get a little sweat going and a lot of camaraderie. It's good exercise and fun with good friends," said Good, who plays with Haggart and a rotating group of 15 people ages 70 to 85 two mornings a week at the nearby Northfield Community Center and Willow Park. Good, a New Trier graduate (Class of '55) and longtime Northfield and Northbrook resident, also plays at The Country Club of Florida on their recently installed courts, which measure the same as a badminton court.

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To Haggart, a longtime Glenview resident, one of the keys to living a longer life is "sociability," and pickleball helps fill that bill. "You make new friends, and it's just a lot of fun." He and Good are currently featured in a video promoting the game for people living at Vi at the Glen, or who may be interested in moving into the retirement community. "We want to encourage people to get interested in it, and to let people who might want to move here know that this is just one of the many things they can do."

The pair is also talking with Vi management about the possibility of building pickleball courts there. In the meantime, opportunities to play pickleball nearby have exploded in the last few years. In addition to the outdoor Northfield courts and Middlefork School courts, there are outdoor courts at Flick Park in Glenview and indoor winter courts. A group of nearby country clubs has started an informal league, Glencoe has several court locations, and Wilmette and Kenilworth park boards are looking into creating them.

"It's growing like crazy," said Haggart, who noted that there are now thousands of tournaments for players of all ages, including the hypercompetitive U.S. Open Pickleball Championship. "A lot of people think it is for older people, but younger people have picked up on it as well. I think this sport is going to be in the Olympics in eight or 12 years."

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