Fit and Fun? Check Out the Sport That’s Taking the World by Storm

Pickleball: what is it, what supplies do you need to get started, and how to avoid injury while playing this popular sport.
Pickleball court

You have to live under a rock these days if you haven’t heard of pickleball. But if you’re like me, that doesn’t mean you actually know what it is. As a tennis player, I know pickleball players like to use the courts we play on and mark them with different lines. As an aging tennis player, I know it’s a sport I should get to know better. That’s because it’s been popular with older adults for the past decade and seems to be gaining popularity with younger people, with tournaments now taking place around the country.

It’s not an exaggeration to say pickleball is exploding in popularity. As of 2020, there were more than four million players. A USA Pickleball Association marks all the courts where you can play, and there are now 11,000 locations listed. It’s grown past neighborhood courts to community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities, and retirement villages. And it’s not just in the U.S.—international clubs are now being created, and national governing bodies are on several continents.

What are the origins of pickleball?

Top down drone shot of a group of people playing a doubles game of pickleball.

The game was first created in 1965 by three men on Bainbridge Island, Washington: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. 

Pickleball was actually started after an argument with Joel’s son, Frank, about being bored. Joel explained that they’d make up games when he was a kid. So Frank challenged him to do the same, which Joel proceeded to do on the paved badminton court in his backyard, along with his buddy Bill. In the garage, they found a perforated ball from a bat/ball set Frank had been given and a pair of table tennis paddles. They combined the two and continued to get creative. Another neighbor, Barney, was brought into the fold to make better paddles. Combined, they all created the rules and formation. 

Just days later, Joan Pritchard decided to call the game “pickle ball,” which was a reference to the people who didn’t start on their team’s crew races or were part of the “pickle boat.” Later, some people said it was actually named after the family dog, Pickles. Joan disputed that, and the guys later admitted the dog story was just a newspaper hoax. They did have a dog named Pickles, but he came into the family after the game was created.

What are the rules?

A pickleball court is about the size of a doubles badminton court, with a net slightly shorter than a tennis net. The game is played with a lightweight paddle and a perforated plastic ball. The court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, and the net is hung 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches at the center.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. You can play in singles or doubles format, and the idea is to hit the ball over the net and land it within the court boundaries. You serve underhand diagonally across the court, and after it’s served, both teams can hit the ball back and forth until one team hits the ball out or in the net. When that happens, the other team scores a point. The first team to get to 11 points wins as long as they’re ahead by two points. Every serve has a point scored, and the serving team changes sides after each point.

How did Pickleball become so popular?

Pickleball scenes at the local pickle ball courts

Pickleball is considered low-impact, so it’s a better choice than a more grueling sport for many who may deal with joint issues. Learning is simple, and you don’t need much equipment. The fact that it’s so accessible has added to its popularity, and it’s a great way to stay active and meet new people. It also helps you play indoors or outdoors on various surfaces, and the fact that it’s competitive also adds to the excitement. 

Tips For Improving Your Pickleball Skills

Four middle-aged women stand next to the net in sports attire.

There are no signs that this popular sport will slow down any time soon, so it’s time to get on board and get good at it, right?! We have a few tips that’ll help you improve your game.

First, get to know the rules because that will allow you to be more strategic when you play and maybe even guess where your opponent will hit next. Be in the ready position for each point, which means keeping your knees bent slightly and feet shoulder-width apart. And keep the paddle in front of your body and point it up slightly; this will help you be ready for the shot headed your way.

Also, learn about the so-called kitchen line: the non-volley zone of the pickleball court that extends seven feet from both sides of the net from each sideline. If you can get to the kitchen line, it’ll put pressure on your opponents and open up good angle shots. Winning shots are typically hit from the kitchen, so that’s important to keep in mind. Also, aim your shots at their feet. That’s a tough one to return and may force an error. 

Finally, remember to have fun! Like everything else, the more you play, the better you’ll get!

Get the Tools

TICCI Pickleball Paddle
TICCI Pickleball Paddle, $66.97
Pickleball Set for Four
Pickleball Set for Four, $39.99
Net Beast Wood Pickleball Paddles
Net Beast Wood Pickleball Paddles, $39.99


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