The fastest-growing sport in America has a funny name, but there’s nothing sour about pickleball. It’s a fusion of badminton, table tennis and tennis. The sport attracts fans of all ages, but is a huge hit with the over-50s crowd—and that’s us.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball is named after a cocker spaniel, “Pickles,” who chased the wayward balls of Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell of Washington State. The pair is credited with inventing the game on an island, one slow family weekend in 1965.
Try before you buy
You need a court, 44’ long X 20’ wide—one-third the size of a tennis court. You also need, according to Pickleball Stuff, this pickleball stuff, all very affordable:
- paddle: from $14 to $65
- balls: a dozen, from $11 to $25. They resemble whiffle balls.
- portable net system: approximately $140
- you: priceless, but you already have you
Pickleball is so much fun it’s nearly impossible to resist, if you ask devoted proponents like USAPA Western Regional Director Chris Thomas. He plays from SoCal’s CoachellaValley.
“Once you have a place to play, and an advocate to spread the word, the sport sells itself,” Thomas says with complete confidence. “It’s the most highly addictive sport I’ve played in life.” He recommends finding a local court on USAPA’s website, which is extensive.
Four years ago, he opened a mailed flyer from his local recreation center that exalted pickleball. It prompted him to show up with seven other wannabees at his gym, and now three of those seven still play at tournaments together. Gotta’ love it!
And here’s why, per Thomas, who says pickleball:
- doesn’t require so much court to cover, like tennis.
- lends itself beautifully to doubles.is easy to learn and be successful at quickly.
- is about strategy and control, not power.
- lasts longer. “It’s not uncommon to have a single point volley go 20 to 25 times in a rally, whereas in tennis, it’s ‘one, two, three and all over.’”
- is not a “serve, volley, smash [into the other player’s body] and the point-is-over kind of game.” That’s because of a non-volley zone called “the kitchen,” a painted line seven feet from the net on either side of the net. “You can’t hit the ball there unless it bounces first.”
- is not so “pro-focused,” like tennis. “There’s no Wilson or Adidas, for individuals make the equipment and sell it, and everyone in the organization is a volunteer.”
- isn’t so tough on the knees—an ideal choice for those with artificial joints.
Thomas quotes a friend, Pat Carroll from Carlsbad, Calif., once a nationally-ranked tennis player. “She tells me that in all the years she played tennis, she can hardly remember times she smiled or laughed this much. With pickleball, you just can’t help it.”
He also says players have told him, “It’s gotten me off the couch and saved my life.”
Time for play!
Thanks to Messrs. Linkowitz and Lowery of Cosby High School for the great video introduction to pickleball above.