SAN BENITO — Terry Gabrielle slammed into a barrier of chairs swinging his paddle, trying to keep the volley in his pickleball game going.

“It’s a game of speed and game of finesse,” Terry said. “It’s a good game for all ages.”

Gabrielle, 70, was slow to get up, but he shook off the fall and kept on playing at the first pickleball tournament held at the Fun-N-Sun Resort on Thursday.

Winter Texan players from around the Valley gathered to compete at the two-day double elimination tournament.

“We got some real high-class players,” Herb Johnson said about the tournament competition.

Kalamazoo, Michigan, native Pat Sinicki joined a team a day earlier.

During one of Sinicki’s matches he rushed the net after his serve and volleyed the ball back with some top spin, sending the wiffle ball past an opponent, between their ankle and paddle.

The women played just as well and competitively throughout the day.

“It’s the happening thing for seniors,” said Wade Prater, a tournament organizer. “And it’s good for them.”

Wade said the game is a lot easier than tennis as he sat at the bracket table managing the tournament’s wins and losses near the pickleball courts.

Throughout the day three games were going at the same time.

Many of the players 50 years old and up were swinging away and moving side-to-side, or back peddling to keep the ball in play.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America,” said Patrick Donley, a U.S. ambassador for pickleball from Wisconsin.

Donley won the state championship in Wisconsin and has played pickleball in 20 states, he said.

Donley, 73, said his pickleball game skills originate from his racquetball playing experience.

“It’s (pickleball) a cross between tennis, handball, racquetball and ping pong,” Donley said.

He said you can tell which game people came from.

Donley and his teammate cruised through the winner’s bracket as they moved deeper into the tournament after the tournament’s lunch break.

A total of 12 men’s teams and 11 women’s teams participated. Each team had two players per team.

“Pickleball is really picking up in the Valley, that’s for sure,” said Tiffany Prater, a game participant. “It’s a lot of people having fun.”

She said this is the first year the Valley has had several tournaments.

Fun-N-Sun Resort provided the court space, equipment and trophies for the tournament.

“There is some real good play going on here,” said Jo King, Fun-N-Sun tournament organizer.

More Information

Wanna play?


WHERE: Brownsville Sports Park new gym, 1000 Sports Park Blvd.,

WHEN: 9 a.m. to Noon, Wednesdays, Fridays

South Padre Island

“Pickleball on Padre”

– Free fun clinics and open play

– To sign up, email

What is pickleball?

A fun sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net.

– Played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes

– Played as doubles or singles

– Dates to 1965