What is Pickleball? The Fast-Paced Paddle Sport Taking the Nation by Storm

a yellow tennis ball sitting on top of a racket

At first glance, it resembles tennis, with the sounds of ping-pong and tactics similar to badminton. But pickleball packs an addictive punch all its own! The paddle sport takes the most thrilling aspects of these games and combines them into one exhilarating hybrid. Strategic and fast-paced yet easy to learn, no wonder pickleball was named America’s fastest growing sport three years straight by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. With over 4 million players now swinging paddles, the competition and community around this quirky pastime captures hearts of all ages. Give it one try, and you too may get hooked on pickleball for life!

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It is played with a paddle and plastic ball on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Players hit the ball back and forth over the net, trying to make their opponent unable to return it.

Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. Doubles is most common, with two players on each side of the net. The sport has simpler rules than tennis, making it easier for beginners to learn but still allowing advanced players to progress in skill.

Why is it Called Pickleball?

The whimsical name for this quirky sport comes from its origins on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, in 1965. According to legend, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell wanted to entertain their bored children during one summer weekend. They set up a makeshift court using an old badminton net, ping pong paddles, and a perforated plastic ball.

When Pritchard’s wife Joan came back from playing golf, she commented that their noisy game reminded her of the “pickle boat” crew teams in rowing – made up of oarsmen no one else wanted. Hence, pickleball was born from the amalgamation of available equipment and that funny association.

What are the Rules of Pickleball?

Pickleball may seem confusing at first, but the basics are straightforward. It all starts with the serve – one player underhand hits the ball diagonally over the net so it bounces once on the other side. The opponent returns it, and a rally begins!

During play, aim to hit the ball back without missing. Teams can only score points while serving. If they score, players switch serving positions from right to left.

Pay attention to the “no-volley kitchen” too! This is a zone extending 7 feet (2.13 m) from the net on both sides. Volley hits are faulted here, so avoid the kitchen unless the ball bounces first.

How do you win? Be the first team to reach 11 points, leading by at least 2. Tactics, teamwork, and consistency are key.

After a quick introduction, pickleball starts making sense. The rules pave the way for fast-paced, strategic play across the net.

How to Keep Score?

Pickleball scoring is like ping pong – the serve rotates between sides, and the player/team serving continues racking up points until they commit a fault. Faults include:

  • Hitting the ball out of bounds
  • Failing to make a legal return
  • Volleying from inside the no volley zone

The first player/team to 11 points wins, but they must be leading by at least 2 points.

Watch this helpful video and play a few games with someone who knows how to keep score:

What You’ll Need to Play

To play pickleball, you need:

  • A pickleball paddle (larger than a ping pong paddle)
  • Pickleballs (wiffle-style plastic balls with holes)
  • A pickleball net (lower than a tennis net)
  • Court – lines can be painted on blacktop or existing tennis courts

When Was Pickleball Invented?

Pickleball traces its origins to Bainbridge Island in Washington State during the summer of 1965. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited with inventing the sport.

As the story goes, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell had a dilemma – their kids were bored, and they needed to improvise some outdoor activity. They set up a badminton net on an asphalt court near Pritchard’s home, grabbing ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball when they could not find shuttlecocks.

As they played with the mismatched equipment, they lowered the net to account for the ball’s less aerodynamic properties compared to the feathered birdies. After Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan coined the pickleball name, play continued and rules were gradually formalized among their families.

Who Invented Pickleball?

So while Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum all contributed to pickleball’s invention on that fateful weekend in 1965, it was Pritchard’s dynamic, competitive nature combined with his political resources that helped pickleball become more than just a casual backyard pastime.

After serving as Lieutenant Governor and then Congressman for Washington state, Pritchard leveraged his connections to spread pickleball to broader communities – first locally, then nationally. His ambassadorship for nearly twenty years before his death in 1997 paved the way for national tournaments and formal establishments of the International Federation of Pickleball the next decade.

So there you have it – the unusual origin story of pickleball from bored children to a fixture at parks and rec centers everywhere!

Health Benefits of Playing Pickleball

As a lower impact sport, playing pickleball is not just super fun, but it’s also really good for you! Here’s why:

  1. Beats the Blues: A study in the journal Leisure Studies found that older adults who play pickleball tend to feel less sad. This means playing pickleball can help keep your mood up!
  2. Sharpens Your Brain: Some research suggests that pickleball can make your brain work better. It’s like a workout for your mind!
  3. Improves Physical Skills: When you play pickleball, you get better at things like moving quickly and smoothly, and your hand-eye coordination gets a boost. This is great not just for the game, but for everyday activities too.
  4. Strengthens Your Body: Regularly playing pickleball can make your muscles stronger and improve how well they work.
  5. Good for Your Heart: A study done by Western State Colorado University in 2018 showed that playing pickleball regularly can make your heart healthier and even lower your blood pressure.

So, pickleball is not just a blast to play, but it’s also packed with health benefits that can make you feel happier, think clearer, move better, and keep your heart healthy!

Potential Risks of Playing Pickleball

While pickleball has fewer risks than more intense court sports, players can still sustain injuries. Common perils include:

  • Pulled muscles, especially hamstrings
  • Arm or shoulder overuse issues like tennis elbow
  • Twisted ankles or knees from abrupt stops and turns
  • Hitting oneself in the eye or head with the paddle or ball

Proper stretching, use of protective eye gear, and safe court footwear help mitigate potential damage when playing pickleball recreationally or competitively.

Get Out and Give Pickleball a Shot!

Indeed, as the fastest growing sport in America, pickleball’s allure is undeniable. So what are you waiting for? Grab a paddle, hit the courts at your local rec center or community club, and experience this quirky pastime for yourself! The underhand serve facilitates extended rallies, while volley restrictions and creative scoring ping-pong between equals, regardless of skill. Now go out and take one bouncing, popping bite of pickleball to see if you catch the buzz!

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