Maybe you’ve heard of pickleball before. Perhaps you’ve heard pickleball players mention it in passing as they head towards a nearby tennis court or pickleball court. You’ve possibly even wondered what all the fuss is about.
Do you want to know more? Do you want a fun way to get in shape and look svelte in your bathing suit next summer? Well, look no further! We’ve got all the info you need to feel confident about your pickleball knowledge as you step onto the court.
What Is Pickleball?
First and foremost, let’s answer the simple question: what is this sport? Pickleball, which had a sudden boom in popularity during the pandemic, is fun, easy to learn for beginners, and has myriad benefits.
A hybrid between tennis, ping pong, and badminton, pickleball is a monster all its own. The plastic ball used is more of a wiffle ball than its heavier cousin, the tennis ball. Rather than a racket like you would use in tennis or badminton, players are armed with a pickleball paddle- one that’s a bit larger than your average ping pong paddle. These paddles are typically made from graphite and fiberglass.
The History of Pickleball
Pickleball was invented in Bainbridge Island, Washington (near Seattle) in 1965 by three guys: Bill Bell, Barney McCallum, and Joel Pritchard. These dads wanted to invent a game for their bored kids to play.
Pritchard’s wife, Joan, allegedly came up with the name pickleball because it reminded her of the concept of “pickle boats,” boats crewed by oarsmen borrowed from other crews. This name worked in Joan’s mind because pickleball borrowed elements of tennis, table tennis, and more. However, some believe that the name came from the family dog, Pickles.
Pickleball is versatile and friendly to all skill levels because just like tennis you can play either as singles or doubles. It’s typically played on a badminton-sized court with a divider reminiscent of a tennis net.
After deciding who will start the game (any fair method will do; we like rock paper scissors), the person on the serving team will serve. In pickleball, the serve is either underhand or a drop serve.
There is a two-bounce rule after the serve: both the serve and the return must bounce on the ground before being returned over the side of the net to the receiving team. After the initial serve, the ball can be hit from a bounce or out of the air. However, the ball can only bounce on the ground one time before being returned over the net, otherwise, it is a fault.
Then the game continues until a player gets a fault, either from extra bounces, misses, hitting the ball into the net, or out-of-bounds play.
There is a lot more to the specifics on how to play pickleball and how to score the game that comes into play during tournaments, but this is the general idea of this fun and addictive sport. The official rules of pickleball, upheld by the USA Pickleball Association, are a bit more complex — but you don’t need to learn them all as a beginner to this paddle sport.
How Did Pickleball Become So Popular?
A few years ago, you might have never heard of pickleball. Now, however, you’re probably seeing flyers for your local pickleball league, seeing people playing pick-up games in the park, and hearing your friends talking about it.
So how did pickleball gain popularity so quickly? Well, pickleball has been around since the 60s, but it really started to see the beginnings of its current popularity in the United States around 2015.
Because of its simplicity and accessibility, the game has been steadily gaining momentum ever since, with a huge surge during the pandemic, when lockdowns and worries about travel encouraged people to seek recreation closer to home.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Pickleball?
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of pickleball.
Pickleball Is for Everyone
Just about every able-bodied person can participate in pickleball, and there are also modifications that can be made to the game to make it more accessible for those who are in wheelchairs or have another disability.
Kids, young adults, and older adults can all get into this game. It doesn’t involve quite as much running as tennis (pickleball utilizes a much smaller court size) so even those who might not start out in amazing shape can still enjoy the game.
It Is Especially Popular Among Seniors
Yes, the sport has intergenerational appeal, but due to its inclusivity and playability, it is particularly enjoyed by older adults. This is a huge benefit for senior citizens because it’s easy to find a league or a pick-up game.
Loneliness can be a problem for some older adults, so finding a community in pickleball is a big help in that department.
It’s a Great Way To Get in Shape
Though there is not as much distance and fast movement as there is in tennis, volleyball, or badminton, pickleball is no joke when it comes to physical activity. Getting involved in this game almost certainly means that you will improve your cardiovascular fitness and maybe even drop a few pounds in time for swimsuit season.
The Movements Are Easy on the Joints
In comparison to more strenuous sports, pickleball is much easier on the joints. The lightweight paddle is easier to maneuver than a tennis or badminton racket. You have likely heard of tennis elbow. Well, there’s a reason: it is very common.
You’re much less likely to end up with that kind of tendonitis from pickleball. Not having to cross great distances quickly will make your knees much happier.
Pickleball Provides Great Mental Exercise
The kind of attention needed for the game of pickleball is great for keeping your mind sharp. While focusing on the ball, which is a voluntary type of attention, you also need to be moving your feet as well as thinking about your next move.
While all of this is happening you are also developing a certain amount of “muscle memory,” in which your muscles work together with your brain to retain information about the way you need to move. This mind-body connection will help keep your brain young and fit!
Pickleball Gets You Moving
It is recommended that people, in general, get either 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. The moderate activity could be something like walking, jogging, or leisurely swimming. The vigorous activity might be HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or heavy weight lifting.
Pickleball can fall into both categories, depending on how intense the game is. You get to choose your level of hustle, and it also depends on the people you are playing with.
Built In Closeness
The fact that players are standing so much closer to each other in this game than in many others, means that there is bound to be a more natural conversation. This provides the game with a strong social aspect that sets it apart from others.
Most Importantly, It’s Fun!
The real benefit of pickleball is how much fun you can have while playing it. Many of us fall out of our fitness routines because we just don’t enjoy doing them. The best thing you can do is find an activity that you genuinely enjoy, that gets you active in an authentic way.
As one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic, the newfound popularity of pickleball has brought it to national attention. The simplicity of the game, accessibility to all, and overall fun make it the perfect recreational activity.
Pickleball is a great exercise for both body and mind, it will help you to connect with your community, and could even help you to shed a few pounds and work on your cardiovascular health. Grab a paddle and a friend and learn the game!