st. PETERSBURG, FL — The St. Pete Pickleball Association is always looking to expand the sport, and the men and women at the Park Center for Disabilities are always looking to expand their horizons. It turned out to be a perfect match.
“Well, the first week was chaotic. Then they went up five levels each time they came. Now there are people who are really starting to learn how to play. It’s exciting for all of us. That’s it,” said Dr. Ed. Carlson and St. Pete Pickleball Association.
Carlson is one of several association members who volunteer twice a week to teach these men and women how to play the sport.
According to Brian Rothey, Assistant Vice President of Adult Community Programs, these players have a lot of opportunities inside the park, but are often overlooked outside the community.
“It’s just a joy to see people blossom, and they’re all blossoming. They’re all standing up and having fun at the same time,” Carthron said.
“When you show them the right way and what we did, they get it really quickly,” said fellow coach Bill Gelzac.
Park said he’s seen playing on the court carry over to other areas of his life, such as confidence, teamwork, and following directions.
“After that first practice, just returning to our program, the excitement and energy went through the roof,” Rothey said.
The ultimate goal of these coaches is to build a team that can compete in the Special Olympics. These players communicate that they are ready to win the gold medal.
“I love this thing,” said Julio Rivera.
Holly Dejiacomo said, “If you don’t try, you won’t know if you can do it. You have to get up and see if you can do it.”
The nonprofit hopes other St. Pete Groups will see the success of Pickleballs and offer their own partnerships. All these participants need is a good coach and they will take care of the rest.