The Pickleball Community Volunteer Group strives to prolong the Drill & Play program in response to great demand and several success stories in the sport.
The pickleball drilling training session is now available from 10 a.m. to noon at Ezell Regional Recreation Complex, giving the training program a third site.
Joey Cangelosi, the lead instructor, emphasizes three key characteristics of pickleball.
“The thing that we emphasize is why you’re playing pickleball,” said Cangelosi, of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagle. “Are you playing pickleball because you are a competition junkie? Are you playing it because you want a little exercise? Or do you want to meet people?”
Cangelosi, a former tennis player and basketball coach for 20 years, says it’s largely teaching pickleball that keeps him interested in the sport.
“I love to teach,” said Cangelosi, who became a Drill & Play Instructor in 2016 at Rohan Regional Recreation Complex. “They asked us if anybody wanted to volunteer and I said, ‘Sure, I’d love to,’ and I’ve been doing it ever since. It was just a natural fit for me.”
Drill & Play began at Rattan in 2015, where Cangelosi is still the head instructor, and then moved to Everglades Regional Recreation Complex in 2021 before arriving at Ezell this year.
“The pickleball community is just a wonderful place,” Cangelosi said. “We’re all kind of like family. I would’ve never thought I’d be 65 years old and still being competitive at something — this is intense. It’s just a wonderful gift that we got from God that we can do these kind of things.”
Donna Angel, of the Village of St. Catherine, began Drill & Play at Rohan Regional Recreation Complex over five years ago.
“It’s been awesome,” Angel said. “It’s really helped me improve my game tremendously. Once people get into drilling, they realize it really makes a difference in their game. Joey’s just a true asset in helping us do that.”
Jill Gilbert, a 4.0-rated player from the Village of Marsh Bend, became a trainer 18 months ago after beginning as a student.
“One, pickleball is a great sport to learn,” Gilbert said. “People are so open to help you and teach you. So, the amount of friends that I have had the privilege of getting introduced to — they’ve all helped me. And of course the coaches here at Drill & Play. Joey has been great help getting me to a 4.0.”
Leslie Wright, of the Village of McClure, has been attending Drill & Play for about a year and has noticed significant growth.
“Oh my gosh, it’s helped me immensely,” said Wright, a 3.0-rated player. “You figure out how to control the ball. And then when you are out there playing a lot of times you don’t think about it. But then all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember,’ Ron said, ‘Do this,’ or George said, ‘Do this.’ I’d like to eventually be a 3.5 player. But ideally 4.0 would be the goal.”
Drill & Play intends to expand as The Villages continues to thrive.
“We’ve had so many people that want to take the class that we wanted to extend,” Cangelosi said. “That’s why we started over at Everglades. We still have lots of people that want to take the class, and we have a whole new area here. So, we said, ‘We have to expand.’ The program is so successful. People love taking our class. That’s the reason that we came down here.”