Pickleball is a lesser known and underrated source of fun filled recreation. A year back, some friends invited me out for a round of pickleball at the local community center.
Following a brief explanation of the rules and about 15 minutes of vollying to get a feel for it, we were quickly playing a competitive and entertaining game. I wish I could say it was my athletic prowess that made the difference, but that’s simply not the case.
While there are many levels of competitive pickleball players out there, what makes pickleball so appealing is how much fun and easy it is to play from the outset. Combining a fun activity, with good exercise and a social environment make Pickleball worthy of a try!
What is Pickleball?
By Jaunty Staff
In a nutshell:
It’s a racquet sport, combining elements of tennis, badminton & ping pong. Two to Four players to a game, play over a tennis style net and rally a plastic wiffle ball back and forth, for points.
The pickleball court is only 20’ x 40’ limiting the area a player must cover during play. Also, the rules of play reduce the need for lots of running or complex mobility in order to play, making it a sport in which young and old can participate.
Unlike, for example, golf, it doesn’t take long to start playing and enjoying the sport, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t require a big commitment of time. You can immerse yourself in casual play at your local community center or push your game level to national tournaments, should you choose.
In addition to good exercise, Pickleball is also a very social sport!
History of Pickleball
Pickleball’s origins dates back to 1965. In an attempt to entertain their kids on a lazy Summer afternoon, 3 Dad’s (Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum) from Seattle, Washington lowered a backyard badminton net to tennis net height, put ping pong paddles in the boy’s hands and used a Wiffle ball (perforated plastic ball) as the game ball. With the lively bounce of the plastic ball, the kids had a great time and were quickly able to keep the ball in play for long rallies. Dad’s being men, they introduced more defined game rules over the Summer. Wisely, the rules they devised kept the game “family friendly” so all could enjoy the game… a new game was born. Today, pickleball is played in all 50 States and Canada and there are over 4000 places to play in the US alone.
Why is it called Pickleball?
Two narratives have been floated about the source of the quirky name for the rising sport:
In the first, the Pritchards (one of the founding families) had a family dog named Pickles. Pickles had an affinity for the wiffle balls used in the game and would constantly snatch them up and run off…. ergo Pickleball
The alternative narrative centers around the term a “pickle boat.” Apparently, Joan Pritchard (mother) rowed crew competitively and the term pickle boat refers to a weaker, mis-matched crew boat team; which is analogous to the mis-matched equipment (badminton net, ping pong paddles, wiffle ball) that started Pickleball.
Personally, I prefer legend #1. What’s cuter than a pup named Pickles, swiping a wiffle ball!
How popular is Pickleball?
By the numbers
With over 3 million players in the US alone, pickleball has grown over 650% in the last 6 six years! The growth in the sport is not limited to the more senior demographic, but has been embraced by all ages. Again, the low cost and quick ramp of playing ability drive pickleballs popularity.
How is Pickleball played?
Photo from Pickleballguide.net
Here’s the basics of the game. Pickleball rules are a little quirky, but it’s the quirkiness that makes the game easier to play and more enjoyable.
2 or 4 players are required to play
Pickleball Serve rules
The Pickleball serve rules are similar to tennis. From the right hand side of the court, one side serves the pickleball from the back line, using an underhand swing. The serve goes diagonally across the court and over the net to your opponents service zone. The server must clear the no-volley zone (first 7’ of court on opponent’s side)
The receiving team must let the ball bounce once, before hitting the ball back. Next, the serving team must also allow the ball to bounce once before hitting. After the initial exchange, you can then hit the ball out of the air. The one bounce rule and underhand serve prevents someone from crushing the serve and help to extend play, making for longer rallies!
The rally continues until a fault (someone hits the ball out of bounds or into the net)
If the serving team wins the point, the server now serves from the left hand side of the court and follows the same service rules. When playing doubles, if the server loses a point, the next serve goes to his partner, rather than the other team. When the partner loses a point, the other team gets to serve.
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The non-volley zone – “The kitchen” extends play
The non-volley zone, sometimes called “the kitchen” is the area inside of 7 feet, on both sides of the net. Volleying (hitting the ball out of the air, without a bounce) is not allowed inside the non-volley zone. This is a good thing as the rule prevents players from crushing the ball, right at the net. This again, extends the rallies, making the game more fun. If you step into the non-volley zone when hitting a volley, it’s a fault and you lose the point.
Points are only scored by the serving team.
A game is to 11 points and you must win by 2 ( tournaments are played to 21 points).
When the serving teams score is 0,2,4,6,8,10 – the serve comes from the right side of the court. When the score is 1,3,5,7,9, the service comes from the left side of the court.
If you want more info on the rules and pickleball scoring, visit the USAPA.org .
Video of Pickleball
To learn more about pickleball, here’s a few links that might be helpful
If you’re looking for more information for those just starting to play, check out some video of pickleball for beginners
While it is quick and easy to take up pickleball, if your competitive side drives you to compete at a high level, check out these videos of more advanced pickleball tournaments
As I mentioned earlier, pickleball is the perfect game for young and old alike. This 65+ tourney highlights boomers in action!
Pickleball near me
So, where to start? Follow the link below to find the nearest location to play in your area. The search tool, from the USA Pickleball Association let’s you search by city, State or zip code. If for some reason you don’t find a local listing, reach out to your local parks and recreation or community center. Many public recreation centers have also redrawn community tennis courts for dual purpose, to accommodate both sports
Where can I play? – from USAPA Site
Learn how to play Pickleball
By once again searching the USAPA site, you can find the closest recreation department or community center that offers clinics from certified pickleball instructors. My wife recently took the beginners clinic in our area and is moving up to the intermediate clinic for the next round. Reviewing the videos referenced above is also a good place to start, to get your basic stroke down, learn the rules etc… Ultimately, the best way to get going is to get out there and give it a try!