QUINCY -- Their peak athletic days may be behind them, but the competitive spirit never dies.
That's why three mornings per week a dozen or more athletes ages 55 or older gather at Berrian Park to play pickleball.
They show up dressed for action -- t-shirts, gym shorts and sneakers. Some wear hats or visors or sunglasses, whatever works to shield their eyes on a warm, sunny morning. They don't waste much time pairing off and getting right into a game.
The chatter among players is constant and often humorous.
In one particular match, friends Brian Hill and Roger Lunt teammed up against Denny Bassett and Terry Winters. During a rally, Winters hit a lofted shot in Hill's direction.
Hill jumped as high as he could with his arm extended and paddle raised high in the air. He didn't reach the exact height needed as the pickleball sailed just over his paddle and landed behind him inbounds for a point.
Hill turned to Lunt with a quick remark.
"I think I jumped too high," said Hill, drawing laughter from the other players.
Bassett and Winters went on to win the match by being the first to score 11 points. Afterward, all four players met at the net and tapped their paddles to congratulate them on the round.
The players take a brief rest, sitting in lawn chairs they've lined up against the fence inside the courts. They talk about recent events in their life or any happenings around town. Some will talk about the matches they just finished.
Diane Glaub, who is one of the main organizers, returned from vacation the previous night and still found time to make it out to the park. Glaub said the popularity and the number of people playing during the week have risen over the years.
"It's exciting when the courts are full of people playing and others are waiting to play," Glaub said. "We play all the time, even in the winter as long as there's no snow."
After a few minutes of rest and relaxation, more teams are formed and it's time to play again.
"You'll never see the same two people play together after a match," Lunt said. "We don't want a team just out here dominating."
That's because they prefer to keep it loose and fun. They come early because it gives them a nice start to the day before other obligations come calling. It's also a way to exercise while playing a sport that isn't too physically demanding.
Pickleball is played on a court similar in size to a badminton court, but with a low net like in tennis. The paddles resemble oversized table tennis paddles, and the ball is made of plastic with holes and usually is either yellow or neon green.
While they have fun, the games remain competitive.
There's no shortage of witty and sarcastic remarks, either.
A match between Lunt and Jean Anne Winters and the duo of Randy Krutmeier and Pam Peter quickly turned into a 7-3 lead for Krutmeier and Peter.
"Enough with the nonsense," Lunt said after his opponents scored another point. "We're coming after you."
Lunt and Winters rallied to win the match after scoring four straight points to clinch it.
"You got us," Krutmeier said as the teams met at the net afterward.
That wasn't the only impressive comeback of the morning.
Glaub and Jim Terwelp trailed 10-3 to Peter and Jim Ostermiller. Glaub and Terwelp score nine unanswered points to win 12-10.
"How'd you like that?" Glaub asked after the match.
"I didn't," Ostermiller answered with a laugh.
The four players relax afterward and realize it's getting late enough that they need to pack up their gear. They say their goodbyes and plan to meet up again later in the week.
That's when the competition and light-hearted banter begins again.