Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and it could be very soon in the rest of the world. It is fun, easy to learn, social, and active, and people are flocking to it. There are over 4 million players in the United States, along with tens of thousands of courts. In addition, there is a pro circuit, hundreds of annual local tournaments, a national organization, a pickleball magazine, and even pickleball-specific travel companies (Pickleball Trips).
Created on Bainbridge Island in 1965, pickleball combines tennis, ping pong, and badminton. According to Jennifer Lucore in “The History of Pickleball,” the game was created when Joel Prichard’s kids were bored. He challenged them to create a sport. Beginning on a badminton court with ping pong paddles, the adults gradually refined the game, adding rules and changing equipment until they created the game of pickleball. Another one of the founders, Barney McCallum, knew they were onto something because “the kids didn’t see much of the court after we got into it.”
One of the excellent aspects of pickleball is that the founders specifically designed it to reduce advantages like height, speed, strength, and gender. Rules like the non-volley zone and the two-bounce rule were implemented so kids and adults could have fun together. Unlike other sports, pickleball is still fun with players of different ages and ability levels on the same court, mainly because win or lose, it’s just a lot of fun.
A constant source of confusion and misunderstanding comes from the name – pickleball. Although urban legend states that the sport was named after the dog, “Pickles”, it’s actually the other way around. Joel Prichard’s wife Joan called the game pickleball because it reminded her of the crew of a pickle boat, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. In the same way, pickleball is taken from a combination of different sports. The dog came later and was named after the sport.
Although it took some time, pickleball eventually evolved into the sport it is today. Pickleball is now a movement. It has helped countless people get healthy, go outside, meet new people and rediscover the joy of competition. Because it is less physically demanding than sports like tennis, people who used to play other sports gravitate towards pickleball. Even people who have never played another sport can easily pick up pickleball because of the slower pace, small court, and because most pickleball is doubles rather than singles. Public parks, country clubs, indoor gyms, and retirement communities now all feature pickleball.
Speaking of retirement communities, another misunderstanding about pickleball is that it is a senior sport. Nothing can be further from the truth. Many seniors play because they have the time and resources to devote to recreational activities and pickleball provides a great activity. However, watching a game of professional pickleball will soon convince you that this is a highly athletic and demanding sport. With the sport going global and talk of bringing it to the Olympics, the professional level is constantly getting better. Pickleball is for people of all ages and ability levels to enjoy and the sport is constantly becoming more diverse.
How Do I Get Involved?
One of the great things about pickleball is how friendly and welcoming the players are. The easiest way to get started is to show up at the local pickleball courts and talk to someone. Even better, if you have a friend or relative who plays pickleball, ask them to guide you. If you know the basic rules and have played a couple of times, it’s easier to jump into a recreational game. Different facilities have different formats, time schedules, and systems, so make sure to check into when/where you can play.
If that sounds daunting or you don’t know anyone, another way is to contact your local pickleball ambassador. Visit USA Pickleball’s Places 2 Play website https://usapickleball.org/play/places-2-play/ and find out when/where pickleball is played near you. Ambassadors volunteer to spread the sport they love, so they are happy to help out. In addition, Pickleball players want to grow the sport, so most clubs have a weekly time to teach new players the rules and basic strategies. That’s also a great way to connect to players around your same level.
From there, my only warning is to be careful! You will become addicted, so don’t blame us when you do. Instead, just join us for a fantastic pickleball trip or one of our camps.