As new leisure centers open in the southern areas of The Villages, club leaders are jumping at the chance to expand their groups. Clubs in the northern part of The Villages extend south of State Road 44 so southern residents can have fun with activities such as water volleyball, exercise classes, shuffleboard , billiards and niche interests like home decorating. Zumba instructor Barb Matson, who leads a class at the SeaBreeze Regional Recreation Complex, has started a class at the Ezell Regional Recreation Complex for her neighbors in the Village of St. Catherine and surrounding areas. “It was an immediate hit,” Matson said. “I love having my regulars in my class up north, and I also love being able to see new faces in Ezell.”
Matson has taught Zumba in The Villages for over 12 years. In addition to her SeaBreeze course, she has started another at the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Complex. She asked a friend to take over Eisenhower’s class so she could take him dancing at Ezell on Mondays at 10 a.m.
She teaches the class alongside a friend, and the two love helping others have fun while exercising.
“I’ve never been one to hesitate or get nervous,” Matson said. “So I can take all my energy and give it to people looking for fun dance workouts in my new neighborhood.”
Karen Glynn, of the Village of Marsh Bend, is part of the Decorating Designing Women’s Leadership Team. Glynn said she started the group with her friends because similar clubs up North were full. The group focuses on interior design, and meetings feature guest speakers, such as a retired master gardener who spoke to the group about landscaping.
Glynn said she enjoys learning more about how other people design their homes and yards.
“Everyone likes to talk about their passions,” she said of why she started the club.
Glynn said you don’t have to live in the south end of the villages to join Decorating Designing Women, which meets at 2 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Everglades Regional Recreation Complex.
“We get at least 40 members at each meeting,” she said. “We have up to 90 people in the group, but we are open to new members.”
Brent Sullivan felt the same when he wanted to play pool with his neighbors without driving too far.
Sullivan, from the village of Marsh Bend, started the South of 44 Men’s Billiards League so that he and other experienced pool players could compete against each other.
Sullivan knew that many other men in his neighborhood shared his love for the game, so he started the group in late 2019 and immediately saw its popularity grow.
Sullivan started playing pool at age 14 and considers himself a talented player, but he and the league welcome men just starting out.
“Meeting new people is the main goal,” he said. “The more people we can play with, the better. It doesn’t matter if you are good or bad, we can help you.
Joe Ward, from the Village of Hillsborough, started playing shuffleboard when he was young. Now he and Jack Koller, also from the Village of Hillsborough, teach an introductory class called Table Shuffleboard Boot Camp at 9:30 a.m. on the second Monday of every month at the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Complex, and they host weekly shuffleboard leagues.
Ward said more people from villages south of SR 44 are attending the boot camp so they can take their knowledge back to their own groups.
“For years, there were only two shuffleboard tables in The Villages,” Ward said. “One was at the Tierra Del Sol Recreation Center and the other was at the Eisenhower Regional Recreation Complex.”
A few years ago a second table was added at Eisenhower, and now tables can be found at the newly renovated Fenney Regional Recreation Complex as well as Trillium, Aviary and Homestead Recreation Centers.
“Hopefully as the new leagues get started they can compete with the rest of the leagues in The Villages,” Ward said. “I think it would be really nice if we could all come together to have a multi-league tournament or something like that.”
One organization that grows with each new leisure center is the Quilting Guild of The Villages.
Guild president Ardie Wood of the Village of Sanibel said the group has 26 quilting chapters, with a meeting at nearly every regional recreation complex. Go to qgotv.org for the list of meeting times.
“Our final chapter is the Whiporwhills in Ezell Regional Recreation Complex,” Wood said. “It’s open to new members like most of our chapters. I believe there are only a few that are closed due to capacity.
Wood said one of the reasons the guild continues to grow is that many people start sewing and stitching when they retire.
“Many chapters of new recreation centers, like the Water Lily Recreation Center, have members who have never quilt before but have always been interested,” Wood said. “Quilting takes time, patience, and space, things you don’t have much of when you have a full-time job or are raising kids.”
New outdoor recreational activities are also developing. Steve Poletti recently took over as ambassador for Water Volleyball 101 class every Friday at Colony Cottage Regional Recreation Complex.
Poletti, of the Village of Pine Hills, said the Friday class attracts a lot of beginners because the rest of the week he plays advanced water volleyball.
“We teach beginners on Fridays and when they get the skills they can take them and start their own games wherever they live, and lately a lot of the players live in the South,” he said.
Editor Maddie Cutler can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5386, or [email protected]