Pickle ball central focus for Riffels to remain active, healthy
JEFF SMITH The Sentinel-Record
HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE — Darrell and Jane Riffel of Hot Springs Village could be described as the epitome of how a lifelong active lifestyle can lead to happy and healthy Golden Years. Both of them had successful careers that required high education and knowledge, and Darrell, a veterinarian, still practices his craft three days a week at the Countryside Animal Hospital. Next year will mark his 50th year in practice. He began years ago as a Kansas farmer before going into veterinary medicine. He is also part owner of the Pulaski County Emergency Clinic in Little Rock and has served on the Veterinary Service Council. Darrell also started a vet tech program at Arkansas State University’s Beebe Branch and helped certify vet tech programs across the country for six years. He said he has always enjoyed the peace of mind his services give to pet owners after the medical needs have been met. “I don’t consider it work. It’s a lifelong passion, and of course we have two dogs of our own who go everywhere with us. For a lot of seniors, their pets are their lifeblood, especially if they’ve lost a spouse,” he said. Jane has a master’s degree in biology and taught microbiology to students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. She was also the first registered animal technician in Arkansas. Their careers took care of the need to exercise their minds. Today, keeping their bodies fit is done through playing pickle ball, the fastest-growing sport in America. The couple has played for five years since the Hot Springs Village Pickle Ball League was formed, and they take part in the Arkansas Senior Olympics now that pickle ball is included. Jane played tennis and racquetball for years and finds that pickle ball has been the perfect transition for her in her senior years. She spends four to five days a week at the Village courts and at the indoor court at Village Church of Christ, where both are active members with the church’s various projects. “I don’t think I would be around right now without exercising regularly. I’ve had a few injuries and surgeries, but pickle ball is the perfect way to get exercise without taking the pounding like you do in tennis. The main thing I would say to other seniors who want to get started in the sport is to warm up properly. Another thing, don’t break your neck trying to go for the ball. It’s not worth it,” Jane said. The Riffels also see pickle ball as an opportunity to showcase Hot Springs Village as the community works to attract new residents. When they go to tournaments, they never miss the opportunity to talk about the area. “We just got back from a tournament in Michigan, and we’re going to one in Branson and Nashville soon,” she said. Darrell added, “We’ve met a lot of new people by going to the tournaments as well as playing here in the Village. We have encountered several people who visited here to check out the community once they found out we had pickle ball courts. This sport is growing so fast, so we hope that our league here will bring in new residents. Pickle ball is great exercise, and you meet a lot of great people and form lasting friendships.” Before pickle ball, the couple was engaged in cycling for several years as part of their health plan. “We biked a lot over the weekend, and we’ve done several 100-mile rides. That hasn’t been the case in recent years since we play so much pickle ball. It is addictive in so many ways,” Jane said. The Riffels are looking forward to next month’s Arkansas Senior Olympics, where they will have the opportunity to renew old friendships with people from all over Arkansas and other states. They also enjoy serving as unofficial ambassadors to promote the pickle ball league in the Village as well as everything the community has to offer.