Pickleball is a game designed for players of all ages, yet it is particularly appealing for older active adults. The game is somewhat similar to tennis, but its small court and light paddles take some of the strain out of the sport. Players can enjoy an active game without having to run too fast or risk a bout of tennis elbow.
The game is said to have been invented nearly 50 years ago by some neighbors in the Seattle area. As the story goes, they gave their kids some table tennis-style paddles and a Whiffle ball to hit across a badminton court. The family dog, Pickles, kept stealing the ball, leading to the name of the game.
In 1984, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was created to help bring the game to a wider audience. They published an official rulebook the same year and have since helped organize tournaments, player rankings, and other promotional materials. Pickleball has grown in popularity over the past few decades, largely because the game is accessible for nearly anyone.
This past spring, NBC News reported pickleball as the fastest-growing sport in America. The holey, plastic ball travels slowly and the smaller badminton-sized (20-foot by 44-foot) court means that players don't have to run around to make each shot.
Many active adult communities now include pickleball courts or provide options for converting tennis courts for pickleball use. Pickleball can also be played on a badminton court. For a game of pickleball, the center net should be 36 inches high on the sidelines and 34 inches high in the middle of the court. The only additional equipment required is the paddles and ball.
How To Play
The rules of pickleball are similar to tennis. The game can be played as doubles (with two-player teams) or as singles (one-on-one). Games begin with an underhand serve to the diagonal opponent, and the ball must bounce on both the receiving side (before being returned) and on the serving side (on its return). Volleys after the serve do not have to bounce before being returned.
The serve switches after a fault and only the serving team can score points. Regular games are typically played to 11 points, with a win by two points. Pickleball tournament games are usually longer, playing to 15 or 21 points, but still requiring a win by two points. Pickleball also has a non-volley zone, known as the "kitchen," within seven feet of either side of the net. Players must volley from behind this line.
When looking for a new outdoor activity, take a chance on pickleball. The game is quick to learn, easy on your body, and fun for players of all ages.