Pickleball: It’s the most popular sport you’ve probably never heard of. And it’s turning 50 this year. To celebrate, here are 10 fun facts about this spirited game, which is only getting better with age.
1. What is it?
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, Ping Pong and badminton. It’s played on a court that’s about the size of a doubles badminton court, or one-third the size of a tennis court. Although it’s an energetic sport, it’s also low impact.
Pickleball has been enthusiastically adopted by the Baby Boom generation, but technically it’s a member of Generation X. As the story goes, the game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by Congressman Joel Pritchard, who named it after his dog Pickles.
Pickleball closely follows the rules of tennis with a few modifications. It’s commonly played by doubles teams, though it’s appropriate for singles play as well. Serves are underhand, and there’s a two-bounce rule at the start of every game: the ball must bounce one time each during the first two points. After that, players may volley, which is where things get interesting. Games are played to 11 points, but the winning team has to win by at least 2.
Players use square shaped, ping pong-style paddles made of graphite. The balls are best described as heavy yellow whiffle balls. No special uniform is needed; most players wear regular tennis or running shoes. Pickleball courts are either specially built or laid out over existing tennis courts.
5. The Lingo
Several new terms have cropped up around the sport. “The kitchen” is a no-volley zone near the net. Players are called “picklers,” and if you lose, you “pickled.” A “dink” is a soft shot that’s designed to just clear the net and drop into the kitchen, like a drop shot in tennis.
6. National Association
The national association for the sport is the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), which promotes Pickleball across all demographics and levels of play. Its headquarters are in Surprise, Arizona.
7. Current Stats
The USAPA estimates more than 200,000 pickleball players in North America as of 2015 and has tracked venues in nearly every U.S. state and Canadian province.
8. Guinness World Record
The world record for the largest tournament is 370 players in Dallas in November 2012. The world record for the longest game is 24 hours in New Port Richey in 2011.
9. Going Global
Outside of the U.S. and Canada, pickleball is gaining international popularity in India and Spain, according to the International Federation of Pickleball.
10. Trending on Twitter
Some fans around the country are commemorating the sport this year. Pickleball USA recently announced on Twitter that it founded thepickleballmile.com with the goal of doubling the number of players around the nation. Happy birthday, Pickleball! If you’re a fan, how are you planning to mark the occasion?