Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pickleball: Kids Day a real hit with fifth-graders at U.S. Open in Naples

Ian Arroyo, from right, returns a volley as D'angelo Licare, both 11, and volunteer Angel Cruz look on while playing pickleball Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at East Naples Community Park. About 75 local school children came out to enjoy pickleball on Kids' Day as part of U.S. Open Pickleball Championship festivities. Professionals played exhibition matches too. (Corey Perrine/Staff)

In his 11 years, Daymian Bocardo already has become a well-rounded athlete.

The Avalon Elementary fifth-grader has played basketball, football, soccer, even hockey. But Daymian's newest sport — pickleball — is quickly becoming his favorite because of how accessible it is.

"Pickleball is easier to play because all you need is a paddle and a ball," he said. "You don't have to get that much (equipment). Other sports you need pads and everything else."

The ease of entry into the sport is exactly why the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, which run Wednesday through Sunday at East Naples Community Park, wanted to introduce the game to Avalon students. About 85 fifth-graders got to play pickleball on professional courts at the U.S. Open's Kids Day on Tuesday, one day before the start of the inaugural national event.

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