Teaching Pickleball to homeless kids in NYC

InPickleball Magazine and the APP Tour team up to benefit The Floating Hospital

Some 2,000 entrants will descend on Flushing Meadows’ iconic tennis center in the week leading to Memorial Day for the Association of Pickleball Professionals’ (APP) inaugural New York City Open. But the athletes won’t be the only ones holding court.

While the pros dink and slam it out all around them, two dozen health educators from The Floating Hospital will learn the basics of the popular game at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

Guided by kinesiologist and 2019 U.S. Open pickleball champion Dr. Rommie Maxey, the health-ed specialists, who work with New York families experiencing homelessness, will take to the court and tackle the basics of the sport so they can teach kids a game that could make a pivotal difference for them.

Outside of getting them fresh food, our No. 1 challenge is providing young people with exercise options that are easy, free, and fun,” Sean T. Granahan, president of The Floating Hospital in Long Island City, said. “Pickleball can do that in a fun, communal setting. It’s something kids can do together, pretty much anywhere.”

During pandemic lockdowns, pickleball proved to be a versatile outlet, as enthusiasts created courts in backyards, driveways, parking lots—even living rooms. All that’s needed to play is a net, chalk, a Wiffle ball, paddles, and sneakers. The sport even has its own magazine, InPickleball.

One of New York City’s oldest charitable healthcare organizations focused on children, The Floating Hospital provides related education for the whole family, engaging children as change agents for healthier habits. Through The Floating Hospital’s signature health education programming, kids learn the benefits of exercise and nutrition that can help them avoid health problems inherent with living in poverty.

Last year, 114,000 students in the New York City public school system were unhoused. The Floating Hospital conducts outreach to 95 percent of the city’s family homeless shelters and domestic violence safe houses. Thirty-eight percent of the clinic’s patients are children.

Pickleball is about the things our world needs most today – health, joy, and togetherness,” Richard Porter, president of InPickleball Magazine, said. “The game is growing wildly because it’s fun and inclusive. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy it immediately and pick up basic skills quickly. By showing these kids a simple way to better health, we can make meaningful progress toward health equity in New York.”

The APP New York City Open session kicks off an ongoing training program that enables the educators to teach pickleball at The Floating Hospital’s “Camp Rise Up” for homeless youth this August. The sport will be added to the roster of confidence and team-building activities the campers participate in during their week away on the upstate campus.

The APP New York City Open session will take place Wednesday, May 25, at the USTA Tennis Center, starting at 10 a.m.