TALLAHASSEE – Erica Gonzalez is a three-time gold medal winning pickleball player in the 2018 Florida Senior Games and one of the stars of the Florida Senior Games program for years to come.
Gonzales will play in all three events in Albuquerque, in the 50-54 age group, and team with her gold medal winning mixed doubles partner from the 2017 National Senior Games, Dale Guess, from Virginia.
I won Triple gold at the 2018 Florida Senior Games and was so was very excite again qualify,” said Gonzalez. “I have added singles to this year’s competition! Thus, representing Florida in 3 events!
Besides her mixed doubles gold medal at the 2017 National Senior Games, she also won the women’s doubles gold medal with Sylvia Whitehouse.
She has won gold medals each year at the Florida Senior Games since 2015.
As a collegiate tennis player at Ohio Northern University and adult player in USTA events, Gonzalez made the switch to the smaller court and the paddle quickly and successfully.
“I had never heard of it until I moved to the 55 and over Sola Vita community and found out the strange game of pickleball,” she said.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Gonzalez explains that how pickleball differs from tennis, other than a shorter court, is that a lot more happens in the kitchen.
The game takes a lot of soft skills, dinking, soft shots that land 2-3 feet over net. Most tennis players come in and want to hit the ball hard.
“You can beat them real easy with soft shots,” she explained.
Her three consecutive women’s doubles gold medals at the Florida Senior Games have come with her partner, Sylvia Whitehouse. She will be in action with Jacqueline Ebner, from Rochester, NY, in Albuquerque since Whitehouse has advanced into the 55-59 age group.
Seems that Gonzalez adapts quickly to her partners as she and Dale Guess won the mixed doubles gold medal in Birmingham without ever playing together before the 2017 National Senior Games.
“It’s a huge draw,” Gonzalez said, about the more than 40 team 50-54 age group mixed doubles bracket on Saturday, June 15. “The team we played for the finals in Birmingham is going to be there. Our gold medal in 2017 was not a given but it worked out really well.”
Besides her success in the youngest competition age group in the Senior Games, Gonzalez accepts the challenge of being the future of Senior Games pickleball.
“It’s a big responsibility,” she says. “For me my idols are players like Gail Brown, from The Villages, who’s in her 80s and still playing pickleball. I’m inspired by the older folks. I want to be playing as long as I I can and live up to the pace they’re setting for me.”
With 1,195 players registered for 2019 National Senior Games Pickleball competition, there will be plenty of inspiration on the 18 courts at Manzano Mesa Park for the account executive for United Health Care Global Division.
I’m really looking forward to the wonderful energy of the event as well as competing against folks from across the country,” Gonzalez said. “I’m also looking forward to some downtime for taking in the sights.”
About the Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana
The Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, are presented annually by the Florida Sports Foundation (FSF), the state’s lead sports promotion and development organization, and a division of Enterprise Florida, Inc. The Foundation works in conjunction with a variety of local sports industry partners to present the different competitions. The Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, an annual amateur sports tradition in Florida, is part of the state’s $57.4 billion sports industry that accounts for 580,000 jobs statewide.