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Club Longboat group keeps Beckyball alive

One Longboater created a modified version of pickleball, which has taken root at the Club Longboat tennis courts.

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  • | 5:50 a.m. February 28, 2022
Nancy Hart goes low for a point.
Nancy Hart goes low for a point.
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Every morning, a group of Club Longboat residents pick up their pickleball paddles and prepare to parry across the park. But the courts are clay, not hard, and the area is wider and shorter than a typical pickleball court would be. 

So thank goodness it’s not pickleball then. It’s Beckyball, a modified form of the sport that brings the social, low-impact version of tennis to even more of the population. Dreamed up in 2019 by Yoram Ariely, who was looking to establish a more accessible form of pickleball, the sport has since taken off at Club Longboat. 

“For people who are hurting from tennis, it’s a good sport to come to, but we just really like it,” organizer Nancy Hart said. “We have 25 people on our list.” 

On any given morning, two courts at Club Longboat are reserved for Beckyball players. It’s gotten so big that permanent kitchen lines, which is the line a serve must clear, were added. On Feb. 23, 10 players showed up to play, and the lone player out on each court rotated in after a game finished. 

“I don’t know what’s going to happen because if we grow much more, then we’re going to need another court,” Hart said.

Hart organized the Club Longboat Beckyball play in 2019 after meeting Ariely. Hart and her husband, Terry, had been playing pickleball at Bayfront Park and met up with Ariely one day. They corresponded about what types of ball to use, finally settling on a low pressure tennis ball, and Hart began organizing at Club Longboat. It was a godsend for Terry.

Yoram Ariely named Beckyball after his wife, even though she prefers walking to get her exercise.
Yoram Ariely named Beckyball after his wife, even though she prefers walking to get her exercise.

“I used to play tennis, but this came along, and it’s worked out well,” Terry said. “I couldn’t play on those hard courts anymore. My knees would kill me.” 

The soft court is a big draw for the Club Longboat players, and Hart said she’s gotten more players interested in it as they age. However, there are a good number of the condo’s younger residents enthusiastically involved too, and lots of grandkids pick up a paddle when they come to town. The Harts no longer play tennis, but several of the other players do. One couple actually started up a tennis game on Feb. 23 when the Beckyball games dispersed. 

“It’s a place where we can come and meet new people,” Jon Riley said. “It is social but there are competitive points, but it’s definitely more about having fun.” 

Beckyball retains the social spirit of pickleball. It doesn’t matter who doubles up with whom or how badly you whiff a point. Spouses line up across from each other and grudgingly congratulate each other on a good point, and no one fights to stay on the court for very long at another player’s expense. Several players are thankful for Terry, who keeps track of the three-number score of the game. It’s a good outlet for exercise and is only growing in popularity at the club. 

“I can see it being 50/50 with tennis and Beckyball here soon,” Riley said. 


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