Have you noticed pop-up pickleball games erupting on tennis courts near you?
By all accounts, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in North America, but this colourfully-named game was actually invented more than 50 years ago by three dads in Washington state who were looking for a solution to their kids’ summertime boredom.
A combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, in singles or doubles, on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Enjoyed by all ages and skill levels, the popular game is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.
Today, pickleball is played all over the world—in fact, the USAPA (USA Pickleball Association, North America’s governing body on the sport) recently estimated that over 400,000 people actively play the game on a regular basis—and its popularity shows no signs of slowing.
So how do you play?
Two or four players use paddles made of composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a wiffle ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports: the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications.
In addition to the modified net and gear, there are several key rules in pickleball that help make the game more accessible. In tennis, and many net sports, games are often won and lost by the power of the serve. In pickleball, the ball must bounce once on each side before volleys are allowed. This opens the game to more players and extends play for added fun.
A good paddle
Initially, pickleball paddles were made entirely of wood; recently, however, lightweight materials like graphite and aluminum have been incorporated to lessen the weight of the paddle. The typical pickleball paddle is larger than a ping-pong paddle, but smaller than a tennis racket. Due to the inferior aerodynamics of the pickleball ball (thanks to its large holes), pickleball balls travel approximately one-third the speed of a tennis ball.
But here’s the question we’re longing to ask: why is pickleball called pickleball?
Two theories: one of the founding dad’s wives started to call their game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.
But according to other sources, the game was named after the founder’s dog, Pickles, who was known to run off with the ball while it was still being played.