When it comes to racket sports, around 13 percent of Americans were participating in 2019, but that number has likely gone up because one game has seen a surge in popularity.
Pickleball might not be something you have heard of, but you can guarantee you will be hearing more about it shortly as it is enjoying a huge post lockdown boost. It would appear that thousands of people have been sitting indoors just waiting until they can get out and play pickleball.
Perhaps it isn’t that surprising when you look at two factors. One, people spent a lot of time indoors during 2020 and other physical activities have also seen a boost; bicycle sales for instance have gone up 60%. The second thing to consider when wondering why pickleball is so popular is that it is extremely accessible.
Ok, so what is pickleball?
If you’ve read this far it is probably fair to assume that you want to know more about pickleball. Put simply it is classed as a racket game although paddles are used, and it incorporates elements of table tennis, tennis, and badminton.
The ball is plastic (polymer) and contains up to 40 holes. The game itself is played inside or outside but requires a hard floor for the ball to be able to bounce on. Badminton courts are ideal for this and this is exactly where the game originally started.
How did it all start?
It all began in 1965 on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, when congressman Joel Pritchard returned home after playing golf. He and his friend Bill Bell found their families at Pritchard’s home bored and lacking something to do.
Pritchard had an old badminton court so he went to find rackets and shuttlecocks to organize a game or two. Fortunately for future pickleball players, Pritchard was unsuccessful in his hunt and so decided to improvise with table tennis paddles and a perforated ball.
The game worked out so well that soon Pritchard, Bell, and a third friend were organizing regular games and fine-tuning the rules. A couple of years later the first pickleball court was made when Joel Pritchard decided to make one on his land.
In 1972, an official corporation was formed to look out for the sport, and now there is the International Federation of Pickleball which is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the sport.
Why is it called pickleball?
The stories behind the name have never been proven but one is that Joel Pritchard’s wife decided to call it pickleball due to the nature of the sport. Pickleball is a mash-up of different racket sports and a pickle boat is where sailors have been picked from different ships.
However, the Pritchards also owned a dog called Pickles, so the naming of the sport might be as simple as that. Perhaps the original perforated ball used was actually Pickle’s ball…
How can you start to get into pickleball?
If you are used to other racket sports then you might wonder if pickleball is easier than tennis or badminton. The answer isn’t straightforward as they require slightly different skills and the player moves slightly differently too.
Pickleball courts are smaller than tennis ones so there is less running, there is less movement needed, and it could be said the game is simpler.
If you want to get involved in pickleball then look for friends that already play the sport. This will be the easiest way to find a partner and some guidance. Alternatively, look for any local groups or places where pickleball is played and ask around to see if anyone is willing to let you join in.
Pickleball is played as a singles or a doubles game so there is every chance someone locally will be looking for a doubles partner. Pickleball is popular in schools and on college campuses too, so put your name down on any lists or join available classes. Of course, you will need to learn the rules too and get some equipment possibly.r
What equipment do you need?
One of the reasons that pickleball is so popular is that it is easy to join in. Unlike a sport such as skiing that takes some initial investment, pickleball requires very little in the way of equipment.
Leisurewear such as shorts and a t-shirt will be fine for playing indoors, and on a chilly day, a fleece will help. The net and court will be supplied by whichever ground you are playing on which only leaves the paddle, ball, and shoes.
A paddle can cost less than $15 and up to $150 for a top-of-the-range version, but these are for very serious players and pros. Of course pickleball paddles come in different qualities, weights and shapes. The one area you might want to invest in is for some good pickleball shoes as suggested here because they can make playing the sport much more comfortable. If you are moving around and on your feet, good shoes are a must for any sport.
This can be a challenge especially if you’re buying online without having an actual test on the paddles. You will need a set of paddles that is comfortable to handle as far as weight is concerned as this is a key factor when it comes to your performance on the court.
On the other hand, the grip will also play an important role while you’re using the paddles. The size of the handle should be comfortable enough for your hand.
Considering you might be new to the sport and as such you’re making your purchase online, reading through some pickleball paddles buying guides and reviews would be very helpful and thus highly recommended
How can you learn to play pickleball?
The rules have to be where you begin. As with any sport, understanding the rules is the key to becoming a better player and luckily, pickleball rules are pretty simple.
Many online resources explain the rules or if you prefer there are also some great beginner’s videos on YouTube that can help you get acquainted with the game.
If you want to improve your skills quickly in the sport then lessons can be arranged. There are many coaches in the USA and other countries now that will teach players from beginners upwards.
Once you have the basics under your belt then there is no substitute for practice and playing against an opponent. Find someone worthy of your new skills and challenge them to a game to see if the lessons have paid off.
Where can you go with pickleball?
It may surprise you to know that there are professional pickleball players, and the sport is having a few Olympic ambitions too. There are many tournaments spread across the states that offer cash prizes so it is possible to be a semi-pro or pro player.
You should reign in any thoughts of riches though. It is still early days and only a few players can make enough to live purely on pickleball. Gaining sponsorship will help increase your income, and you could also consider coaching.
Just as you were once looking for lessons, you could train other beginners in coaching. The PPR is going to be the official education and certification partner of the USA Pickleball Association. This will let would-be coaches get certified and receive more training to help with their own careers.
Pickleball is a fascinating sport that after 50 years is suddenly gaining huge momentum. It is suitable for kids and adults, and without any investment, so it is highly accessible.
Learning pickleball is not too difficult and perhaps the best way is to just jump straight in with a friend and play for fun. After all, the original inventors started the game purely to create an enjoyable activity that families could enjoy together.
It is unlikely Joel Pritchard ever imagined that multiple countries would adopt the sport and there would be professionals playing in tournaments across America.