June 12, 2016 — All over the country there is a craze raging with a very funny name – pickleball. You have probably heard about it, maybe because it is very popular in active adult and retirement communities. But the question is, should it be your next sport? This article will talk about the sport and help you determine whether you should give it a “whack”.
Pickleball got started in 1965 on a modified badminton court. Kids in gym class sometimes play it because it can be played indoors in a fairly limited space with minimum equipment. Since then it has expanded around the globe, but has really taken off as an activity in 55+ and active adult communities.
What is it the game and how is it played
Pickleball is played on a court that is roughly half the size of a tennis court. There is a net and there are different lines marked to indicate the playing area. Watch the Youtube video below to see a fun match in action!
The game can be played as singles (2 opponents) or more commonly doubles (4 players). It starts by a player serving a plastic ball with holes in it from the baseline across the net and to the diagonally opposite opponent. It must land in the box on the receiver’s side and bounce once before being hit back across the net. Back on the server’s side it must bounce one time before being batted back. After that bounce players have the option of hitting the ball out of the air before it hits the ground. The point ends when the ball doesn’t clear the net, bounces twice, or lands out of the court. The small honeycombed racquet is several times the size of a ping pong paddle. When the racquet hits the perforated plastic ball there is a distinctive “whack” (not always popular with nearby neighbors).
Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors on most surfaces, but probably not Har-Tru/clay. A tennis court can be divided into 2 pickleball courts. Dedicated pickleball courts are preferable since there is only one set of lines to worry about. It is played winter and summer.
One peculiarity of the game is the “kitchen”, a restricted zone a few feet next to the net. A player may not enter this zone unless the ball bounces within it, and then must immediately exit. If one intrudes into the zone as part of a followthrough, the point is lost. The point of the kitchen is to prevent players from camping out at the net.
The first team to 11 points wins the game (must win by 2, however). Scoring is a little complicated at first, but you will get used to it. The server announces the score by saying 3 numbers (the first is his/her team’s score, the second is the opposing score, and the third is which server is serving (each member of a team gets a turn serving in each round, and each serves until loss of point). For example: 3-2-1 means serving team has 3 points, opposing team has 2 points, and the first member of the team is serving.
Attracting New Players for Many Reasons
Many people are drawn to pickleball because it is a relatively easy game to become proficient at. If you have played a lot of tennis, squash, or paddle/platform tennis you will be fairly competent in 20 minutes. Likewise table tennis players catch on quickly. But even if you have never played racquet sports you will play well enough to enjoy yourself in just a short time.
Power is not as important in pickleball as it is in tennis. Finesse in placement and angles are much more important. “Soft” players tend to be very effective. People with fast reflexes tend to be the best players, because rapid fire exchanges at the net are a commonplace.
Besides being easy to play, a major reason for pickleball’s popularity is that it doesn’t require as much running as tennis. Faster, younger players lose some of their advantage to others who wield finesse and cunning. It has a strong social aspect to it with more camaraderie than tennis. Typically players change partners and courts together during a session. Play is organized by men, women, and/or mixed.
How to Get Started
The folks who play pickleball are usually great enthusiasts and promoters of the sport. If you know someone who plays, mention you would like to try and you will probably be on the courts tomorrow. Or, use this link at USAPA/Where to Play to find a location and contact near you that can get you started. Many new active adult and 55+ communities are adding devoted pickleball courts as amenities (generally more desirable than converting tennis courts).
If you are looking for a new sport that is easy and inexpensive to play, and a lot of fun – give pickleball a try. You might like it! Please share your experiences with it and other thoughts in the Comments section below.
For further reading
Communities in a Pickle over Pickleball