Sylvia Whitehouse hopes to still be competing in her 70s. 'I feel like I can play this sport for a really long time,' she said.
Palm Coast’s Sylvia Whitehouse and her playing partner Jana Spano, a woman from The Villages, fought their way through a 48-team pickleball women’s doubles bracket at the 2019 National Senior Games, held mid-June in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Competing in the 55-59 age group, which was divided into two 24-team halves, the duo played from 9:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night.
After they defeated the top half winners, Erika Battaglia and Linda Thompson, of Ohio, Whitehouse and Spano had to wait two hours to get their shot at the Ohio team again for the gold medal match.
"I want to still be competing when I’m in my 70s. It keeps me young and active. I think we all fear that if we get too sedentary, that’s when things start to break down. I’d rather break down playing pickleball.”
Sylvia Whitehouse, pickleball player
They had never played together as a teammates prior to the Senior Games. The previously competed against each other at the U.S. Open in April.
After splitting their first two sets, they were down 14-10 in the tie-breaker. They stormed back to win their sixth match of the day 16-14, capturing the gold medal in the process.
“If you stick with the game plan, you can play with anyone,” Whitehouse said. “We’re both highly ranked players and have both won at different tournaments. I knew we had a good chance at winning the gold medal.”
Whitehouse, 56, has lived in Palm Coast since 2011. She didn’t start playing pickleball until 2015.
She was playing tennis with a friend at Spruce Creek in Port Orange when she heard an unfamiliar sound. There were people playing pickleball a few courts over. Her friend wanted to try out the sport with her, but Whitehouse wasn’t interested.
“Finally, just to shut her up, I took her out on the court,” Whitehouse said. “I never played tennis again.”
She used to make the hour-long drive to Daytona Beach Shores to get her pickleball fix. With the construction of the courts at the Hammock Community Center, located at 79 Malacompra Road, in 2016, she no longer has to travel far from home.
The game has been a great source of exercise and an easy way to make new friends.
She’s competed in other events in addition to the senior games.
After winning the U.S. Open in 2018, Whitehouse repeated as champion and took bronze in mixed doubles.
She hopes to return to the national stage once again at the next senior games, to be held in 2021 in Fort Lauderdale .
“I feel like I can play this sport for a really long time,” Whitehouse said. “I want to still be competing when I’m in my 70s. It keeps me young and active. I think we all fear that if we get too sedentary, that’s when things start to break down. I’d rather break down playing pickleball.”