Grace on the Court

A Parkinson's patient playing Pickleball at Willamalane Center

A Quirky Sport Called Pickleball Improves Health, Confidence

Jean Walker has a tough time holding a coffee cup steadily. Manual stability can be difficult for people like Jean who have Parkinson’s disease. The disorder affects the central nervous system, which can interfere with movement and cause tremors.

But if you saw Jean on the pickleball court, you’d be none the wiser. She moves with grace and confidence, delivering solid serve after solid serve and returning the Wiffle ball with ease.

Jean rediscovered this physical confidence after joining in Willamalane’s four-week pickleball course developed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease.

She and her husband, Doug, play together to stay active and social.

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the nation, especially among adults ages 50 and older.

Roger Schaljo, instructor and coordinator of the Emerald Valley Pickleball Club, recognizes pickleball’s many health benefits.

“The biggest health effect I’ve had from pickleball is a steady increased heart rate,” Schaljo says. “It gets my heart rate up and it stays up, which is excellent for my overall health.”

Schaljo says some of the people who play with him regularly say pickleball has helped them increase stamina and maintain a healthy weight.

While pickleball is a great low-impact activity for adults 50 and older, Schaljo welcomes people of all ages and abilities to the beginner drop-in pickleball classes. These run Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 to 2 p.m. at Willamalane Center.

Planning on joining in? Make sure to say hi to Walker and others with Parkinson’s who are looking forward to being regulars at drop-ins.

 — Jodie Davaz