Pickleball!

May 18th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments

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If you’ve driven by tennis courts lately, chances are you’ve seen people playing with what look like big ping pong paddles and thought to yourself, “What in the world …..?”  Well, you’ve seen one of the newest sports on the court scene:  Pickleball!

Pickleball is a paddle sport created for people of all ages and skill levels to enjoy.  It has simple rules that are easy to learn, which makes it ideal for beginners.  Pickleball combines elements of badminton, ping pong, and tennis, and can be played indoors or outdoors.  And the only equipment you need is the net (modified for pickleball), a paddle, and a plastic ball.  It’s fast-paced and great exercise!

According to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association (USAPA), more than 100,000 people are now actively involved in pickleball, playing with friends and/or in leagues.  And there are now pickleball facilities in all 50 U.S. states.  School kids are likely playing it in PE classes already, and can help their moms and dads learn the game!  And pickleball is a new sport at the National Senior Games this year.

Invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, pickleball was the creation of three fathers whose kids were looking for a new summertime activity.  They originally used hand-made equipment and developed simple rules.  From those early days to now, pickleball has evolved into an internationally-growing sport, with European and Asian countries adding courts and leagues.  (According to legend, the game was named after the family dog, Pickles, who chased down the stray balls.  This is a great story, but we admit it hasn’t been confirmed.)

The Court 

A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court, and the same court is used for singles and doubles.  The net is set at 36” at the sidelines and 34” in the middle, and the court is striped (similar to a tennis court) with right and left service courts and a 7’ non-volley zone in front of the net (referred to as the ‘kitchen’).  If you don’t have access to an official pickleball court, you can modify an existing tennis or badminton court.

Equipment

Each player needs a pickleball paddle and a pickleball.  The ball itself is unique, with holes through it like a wiffleball, and there are different ball models intended for indoor and outdoor play.  The ball travels at a third of the speed of a tennis ball, and is usually white or yellow, although brightly-colored pickballs are gaining popularity.

Apparel

You can wear just about anything that is comfortable for you, from athletic shorts to sweatpants, polo shirts to t-shirts.  Comfortable tennis shoes are also important, and you may want to wear a hat or visor, safety glasses, and a sweatband.

In Athens, a group of seniors play pickleball at Lay Park through the Athens Clarke County Leisure Services Department.  The group started with about eight players, on Wednesday mornings.  They now number 80+ and play six times a week at Lay Park, plus they are playing in Oconee County.  ‘Seniors’ dominate the weekday play, but on Monday and Wednesday nights, younger folks come out for some good competitive play.  You can learn more about this group by visiting them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/athensareapickleball.

And for more information about pickleball, check out the USA Pickle Ball Association website at www.usapa.org

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