In 1965, Congressman Joel Pritchard and two friends made up the game pickleball. According to the Congressman‘s friends, the game was named after his dog, Pickles, who chased the game balls. His wife says the combination of sports in pickleball reminded her of a pickle boat in crew where oarsmen are chosen from leftovers of other boats. Both could be true, as the Pritchards’ did own a dog named Pickles before the game was officially called pickleball.
It is a fast paced combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis. The first permanent court was made two years later in 1967 and by 1990 was being played all over the country. By the end of this year, an estimated 3.5 million players will enjoy pickleball all over the world.
Both active seniors and young players enjoy what has been called “America’s fastest growing sport”. A great sport for all ages, pickleball is a competitive game played on a court that is the same size as a doubles badminton court with 2 or 4 players.
Because the court is smaller, it is less strenuous and more social than a game of tennis. The net ranges in height from 36” on the sidelines to 34” in the middle. The paddle, made of lightweight composite material, is smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a ping-pong paddle. The pickleball itself has holes through it like a whiffle ball.
No special apparel is needed to play, but comfortable court shoes give support for the side-to-side pickleball action. Tennis style clothes are worn by some, but anything that is comfortable and climate appropriate can be worn. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors and temporary courts can be purchased to use on driveways or other hard surfaces for less than $100.00.
Many middle and high schools are now including the game in their physical education curriculums. Parks and recreation centers, as well as many new home developments and senior living facilities, are adding pickleball courts as amenities.
Easy to learn for beginners, more advanced senior players can use strategy to win over younger, faster players. Women can compete and win against men. Since many courts provide paddles and balls for those who want to try the game, it is an easy and inexpensive game to sample. Beware! Many courts report statistics that show as high as a 99% return rate after first time players try pickleball. It is a great, low impact way to exercise that is lots of fun. All these factors make it a great singles or family game!
There are thousands of courts nationally. The USA Pickleball Association website listed below includes a Places to Play map and an app to help you find courts in your community. They also provide videos showing the game as it is played, along with rules of the game and tournament locations. Across the country, tournaments large and small are held. The way this sport is growing, there may be one in your community.