Pickleball Unites Three Generations of River Hawks
UML Hosting Tournament as Part of Homecoming Festivities
By Ed Brennen
On the same campus where she earned a degree in elementary education 60 years ago, Katherine Jeanne Manousos ’63 now finds herself playing pickleball on Sunday mornings.
And she’s making it a three-generation River Hawk family affair: Her daughter, biological sciences alumna Julie Petros ’91, ’93, and grandson, senior mechanical engineering major Ben Petros, often join her on the court at the Campus Recreation Center.
“I feel like I’ve lived here all my life,” says the 82-year-old Manousos, who graduated from Lowell State Teachers College and worked at UMass Lowell for 27 years. “I can’t get away from it – and I don’t want to. I just love this school.”
Manousos is a shining example of how the pickleball craze has caught on at UMass Lowell, where players of all ages and skill levels enjoy the sport on Sunday mornings, and where Campus Recreation hosts intramural leagues and tournaments.
As part of this year’s Homecoming festivities, UML is hosting its first Homecoming Slam Pickleball Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Campus Recreation Center. Nearly 100 players, including Manousos and her daughter, are registered for the tournament, with proceeds going to the upkeep of the rec center.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are invited to attend the tournament, where there will be giveaways and raffles. Members of the Burmese community will sell concessions, including egg rolls, bubble tea and banana leaf-wrapped sweet sticky rice.
“It should be a fun day,” says tournament organizer Mai Nguyen, the university’s registrar – and unofficial pickleball ambassador.
“She loves the sport,” confirms Manousos, whose connection with Nguyen predates pickleball. When Manousos worked as a staff member for the former College of Science and Health Professions, Nguyen helped her assign classrooms.
"It’s funny how it worked out,” Manousos says between pickleball games on a recent Sunday morning.
Originally from Haverhill, Massachusetts, Manousos met her late husband, Charles Manousos ’61, at Lowell State Teachers College. They got married in the summer before her senior year and moved to Lowell, where they raised a family of future River Hawks. Julie’s brother, Peter Manousos ’89, is a meteorology alum, and her sister, Stephanie Manousos ’90, earned a degree in criminal justice.
Manousos, who retired from UML in 2010, had never heard of pickleball when a friend asked if she’d like to play on outdoor courts in Andover, Massachusetts, four years ago.
“I liked that it was something to do outdoors,” says Manousos, who enjoys walking, biking and snowshoeing, as well as bocce and bowling. “I have to keep active if I want to stay on my feet.”
Julie, an avid tennis player, soon dropped by to try the sport. She then suggested that they try the Sunday morning drop-in games at UML, where Ben could join them.
“I like being with her, and it is a really fun way to spend time with her,” says Julie, who works as an instructional assistant at an elementary school in Andover. “Everyone here is so welcoming, and it’s so fun to learn something new.”
Ben, a member of the UML tennis club, says “it’s nice that we can do something together” on Sunday mornings at the rec center.
On the court behind him, his grandma and mom team up for an impressive victory, with Manousos showing the reflexes of players one-quarter her age.
“It is the best thing, it really is,” she says while getting hugs from Julie and Ben after the win. “Having the family together here, it makes me feel good.”