What’s to Love About Pickleball?

“It’s the fastest-growing game in the country,” said Robert Hayes, a devout pickleball player and president of the Venture Out Condo Association. “I love the game.”

Robert Hayes, 69, serves during a pickleball game at the Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa. Norman Cudney, 78, is at right. (Credit: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

For player Don Bogle, a Mesa resident and one of the game’s 350 ambassadors for the USA Pickleball Association, the sport is “addictive,” The Arizona Republic reported.

“You get such an adrenaline rush that it’s like a runner’s high,” he said.

Many people unfamiliar with the game marvel at the recent growth of a sport that was created 46 years ago. The game’s biggest surge has evolved over the past five years since the Pickleball Association, an all-volunteer group, was founded, said David Johnson, the association’s spokesman.

“They’ve put a lot of effort into building the sport and promoting its growth throughout America and Canada,” said the Seattle-area resident who turned his part-time pickleball equipment-sales business into a full-time enterprise two years ago.

“And when snowbirds are introduced to the sport in places like Arizona they go back home to states like Michigan and introduce it to their friends. Michigan is now one of the more popular states to play pickleball,” he said.

“We hear a lot from recreation departments interested in revitalizing underutilized tennis courts,” Johnson said. “Pickleball generally draws a different audience than tennis and usually an older demographic.”

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fast paced, easy game to learn and very similar to tennis, yet easier on older joints. As a matter of fact it can be played on a tennis court with a few minor conversions.

If you build it, they will come. Wayne & Nancy Muggli built this pickleball court in their yard in Montana. (Credit: Pickleball Stuff)

Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong (table tennis), and is played on a court with the same dimensions as doubles badminton. It is played as a singles game with one person per side or more commonly as a doubles game with two people on each side of the 36 inches high net.

Each player uses a hard-surface paddle (total length plus width of the paddle cannot exceed 23¾ inches). The object of the game is to score points by successfully hitting a three-inch-diameter polymer (plastic) ball that is perforated with holes (similar to a whiffle-ball) across the net without it being successfully returned by the opponent (s).

Served with an underhand stroke, the ball must bounce before it can be returned on the serve and must bounce before the second return. Games are played to 11 points.

Over time the rules of the game have become more sophisticated but when first developed, pickleball was a simple game designed for all ages and any athletic ability level.

History of Pickleball

After playing golf one Saturday during the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island (a short ferry ride from Seattle) to find their families sitting around with nothing to do.

The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised, cutting shafts of the damaged rackets and found a perforated plastic ball. The rackets didn’t work very well, so the dads created four wood paddles, similar to today’s wood paddles. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches.

Pickleball is a racquet sport which combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The game is played with a hard paddle about twice the size of those used for ping-pong and a wiffle ball, making the technique required for pickleball different than other sports. (Credit: Toronto Sports Council)

The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.

The Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because you see, it was Pickle’s ball.

And, as they say, the rest is history!

Worth Pondering…

Rules for ALL to Play Pickleball

First of all, if you recall, the name of the game is Pickleball.

Pickleball is a weird name but garners attention by its mere mention.

So what if the creator’s dog, Pickles, chased the ball, thus created the name for us all.

All you need is 20 x 44 feet; a 3-foot net and you’re ready for a treat.

Now grab a paddle and use the wiffle ball for your battle.

But to avoid looking like fools, first, you must understand the rules.

The proper score and server number you must state.

Until it is announced, serving the ball must wait.

A second time ‘serving early’ in that game will be at great cost,

As it could result in a point being lost.

So, state your score first and then the score of your foe.

Whether you are the first or the second server on your team, you must also know.

3 – 2 – 1 means you are ahead and the 1st server, for that series, on your team.

That’s simple enough it would seem.

But whoa!

It is important to also know

That rule to remember is simply:

“HAVE FUN!!!”

—Wayne J. LaPointe

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