What Is Pickleball? Keep Reading To Learn All About The Game Of Pickleball
Where Was Pickleball Invented?
Although often thought of as a game for the retirement communities these days, it’s actually a game that was originally invented by three men in 1965 to keep their kids busy during the summer.
While summering on Bainbridge Island, not far from Seattle, Washington, Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum were looking for a fun family activity that would everyone could play together.
When Joel, William and Barney came home from a game of golf one day to find their kids bored and restless, they set out to create a game that would be challenging but suitable for everyone to play.
They started playing with table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball, and a lowered badminton net, on the badminton court.
The kids and parents all enjoyed the game and had fun playing throughout the summer.
This video interview with Barney and his son, does a fantastic job at explaining the history and evolution of the pickleball game.
Why Do They Call It Pickleball?
According to the USAPA website, pickleball was given its name for either one of the following reasons, or it’s possible that both accounts are accurate:
1. According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”
2. According to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it. According to McCallum, “The Pritchards had a dog named Pickles, and you’re having fun at a party, right? So anyways, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.”
Facts About Pickleball?
Before I began playing pickleball, I had heard a lot about it but I didn’t understand the appeal.
However, the reality is, pickleball has become very popular over the last few years, and here’s why.
Doable — just about anyone can get on a court and play
Fun — in fact, it’s easy to just want to keep playing and playing
Social — the majority of people, regardless of skill level, are to some degree, playing for the social interaction
Great, low impact exercise — good for those prone to injury
As competitive as you want — have fun, hit the ball around or get more serious, play in tournaments — the choice is yours
Who Plays Pickleball?
Pickleball really is a sport for people of all ages and skill levels who want to expand their social network, have fun, and get physically fit, all at the same time.
You don’t need to have an excellent fitness level to start playing and having fun.
If you aren’t accustomed to playing racquet/paddle sports, you will likely find that you are using muscles that you haven’t used often, but that’s okay.
You’ll adapt and it’s always a good idea to introduce a warm-up and stretching exercises to your routine.
As mentioned above in the history of pickleball, the game originated as a game for kids and adults and was intended to be a game that was accessible and fun for everyone to play together.
Over time, the game evolved throughout retirement communities and as a result, many people have the impression that it’s a game for retirees.
But that’s not the case. It’s really a game for many people, including young people and by families – and this was the original intent of the game.
And since pickleball is a low-impact and low cost sport, it’s very accessible to many people.
This video below, of a mixed doubles game from the US Open tournament, is with a team of 12 and 14-year-olds playing in the 19-49 division.
In pickleball, players can play up in age but not down. This is a fantastic example of how various age groups and skills can play together.
The video is a game between experienced players but there are many, many recreational players who are just playing to have fun, get fit and socialize.
Remember, you can play as hard as you want or you can play casually and just enjoy the camaraderie of being on the courts.
How To Play A Game Of Pickleball
Pickleball is an easy sport to learn how to play.
The basic concept is the same as tennis.
You play with a ball and a paddle.
You hit the ball over the net, diagonally and try to keep it in-bounds and then your opponent hits the ball back to you. Simple, right?
And because the court is not as large as a tennis court, it’s easier to cover half of the court with your partner when you’re playing doubles.
Easy, peasy. Without a ton of strain on your body.
Now, it’s easy to play pickleball but it does get a little bit more involved from a rules perspective because there are a few rules that are unique to pickleball.
Remember, when I said that the sport was created to allow all family members to play?
Well, in order to be sure that some players weren’t playing too aggressive, the non-volley zone, often referred to as the kitchen, was created.
The kitchen is a 7 ft area on either side of the net that extends the width of the net. You can’t stand inside the kitchen when hitting the ball unless it has bounced first.
I know, it’s a strange rule, but once you start playing pickleball, you’ll realize that this rule actually means that you need to play more strategically because you can’t just easily smash the ball over the net like you can in tennis.
The kitchen rule really does force you to think about how to play the ball.
It’s easy to learn and with a bit of strategic thinking, you can outsmart and outplay your competitor.
Remember the history lesson from above, pickleball was created as an activity for everyone to play (the whole family).
The kitchen rule was created to help enforce the idea that the sport should be accessible to everyone and fun for all skills to play together.
There’s another rule that’s unique to pickleball and it’s called the double bounce rule.
The double bounce rule does not refer to not allowing the ball to bounce twice on your side of the net, although, this is not allowed either.
The double bounce rule means that when you are serving the ball, your opponent must let the ball bounce once on their side of the net before making a return shot.
When the return shot is made over the net to the original server’s side, the ball must also bounce once before the shot is returned.
This rule exists to discourage players from making smash shots immediately after the first serve and quickly ending the play.
This connects back to the history lesson from above, pickleball was created as an activity for everyone to play (the whole family).
The video below provides a basic overview of the pickleball game and how to play.
You can read more about pickleball rules in this article that highlights 7 key rules.
Is Pickleball Good Exercise?
Pickleball is a great, low impact sport for all-round fitness.
The pickleball court is a reasonable size (20 ft x 44 ft), making it easy enough for two people to cover the breadth and depth of the court without feeling too physically taxed.
There’s quite a bit of moving around so you’re likely going to get a cardio workout.
Not only that but it will work the major muscle groups.
And because there’s quite a bit of back and forth, you’ll be able to work on your mobility, agility, and balance.
If you play singles, you’ll play the entire court which is sure to have you running, a lot, and getting plenty of cardio exercise.
Where To Play Pickleball?
Many communities have places to play pickleball.
Sometimes there are courts that have been built specifically for pickleball but quite often, the pickleball courts are shared with tennis, basketball, or badminton courts.
Essentially, the existing courts are re-purposed or turned into multi-functional courts with the addition of pickleball lines.
This works well and is a cost-efficient way of getting pickleball started in a community and making it easily accessible.
Some courts have a cost to play but if you are looking for places to play pickleball near you that are low cost, there are definitely courts that charge a nominal fee or are free.
To easily figure out where to play pickleball, take a look at 5 Simple Ways To Find Pickleball Courts Near You which outlines several really easy ways to quickly find places to play pickleball near you.
Some people will also figure out places to play near them that makes it really convenient. As an example, they’ll setup pickleball courts with portable pickleball nets on their driveways, backyards, cul-de-sacs or even at the local basketball court.
All you need to setup a pickleball court is a hard surface, chalk to mark the court lines and a pickleball net.
Is Pickleball Expensive?
Pickleball is a reasonably inexpensive sport and doesn’t require a lot of pickleball equipment which makes it accessible to a wide range of people.
And as mentioned above, you can often find places to play near you that are inexpensive or free.
And pickleball equipment does not have to be expensive. You can pay $150 for a pickleball paddle, but it’s certainly not necessary.
Pickleball paddles can be bought for as low as $30 for a wood paddle although you will likely want a non-wood paddle and they typically start at approximately $40+. And pickleballs are relatively inexpensive at approximately $3 / ball.
You may want to consider buying a pickleball paddle set because there are some great paddle sets available for beginner players.
Have a look at The Best Pickleball Paddles For Every Budget + Game (2020) because it simplifies paddle selection for you.
I’ve already done a deep analysis of the pickleball paddles and sets available and provide you with three of the top choices, simplifying the overwhelming chore of reviewing hundreds of paddles just to find the one that you think will work best for you.
And you don’t need special clothing but court shoes are helpful if you want to avoid ankle injuries.
Running shoes are not recommended because they don’t give you the support you need to move from side-to-side on the court.
Hopefully, you’ve become more interested in learning and playing pickleball.
It’s a fun game that gives you the opportunity to get fit and socialize.
Consider playing even just one pickleball game and see what you think.
Maybe you’ll become hooked.