Pickleball: Sweet Game, Sour Name

pickleball-sweet-game-sour-nameNecessity is the mother of invention they say. So when you want to play a game, but find yourself without the proper equipment what do you do? Invent a new game, of course. According to the USA Pickelball Association, in 1965 in Washington state a family longing to play badminton but without a set of rackets improvised: using a Whiffle ball, which bounced nicely on asphalt, ping-pong paddles (or, as one story goes, paddles crafted from pilfered plywood found in a nearby shed) and a lowered net, Pickelball was born. The game, which was at once fun and family-friendly, was later further refined with a set of specific rules loosely based on badminton rules and a prototype racket designed by an aerospace industrial engineer. In the 1970s, Tennis magazine dubbed Pickleball “America’s newest racquet sport.’ And today, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, nearly three million of us are Pickleballing! Who knew?

So why is it called Pickleball?  According to several online sources, the wife of Washington Congressman Joel Pritchard who with a friend invented the game, said after seeing the men MacGyver their brand new game, it reminded her of the term ‘pickle boat;’ the last crew boat made up of the “leftover” oarsmen from other  boats.

The game’s appeal is based largely on its resemblance to badminton and ping-pong, and is ideally suited for everyone, basically, of all fitness levels and ability. And it combines elements of ping-pong, badminton and tennis and can be played indoors or out on a badminton-sized court using a paddle and plastic ball.

It’s a friendly game played by the very young and the very old alike but many players enjoy the competitive nature of the game as well as competitive Pickleball tournaments are common. Indeed, according to the USAPA, Pickleball is “exploding in popularity” in part because it can be found in YMCA’s, community centers, private racquet clubs and not surprisingly in retirement communities.

Pickleball Play!

A racquet sport that can be played by two, three or four people, using lightweight paddles to send a similarly lightweight perforated plastic ball over a net, Pickleball is played on a court similar to badminton doubles court, with a net height of 36 inches, the court is striped much like a tennis court. In fact, while there are courts that are Pickleball-specific, tennis or badminton courts can be modified. The Pickleball paddle is smaller than a tennis racquet but bigger than a ping-pong paddle and the ball, much like a Whiffle ball, has holes and is very lightweight; it moves at about one-third the speed of a tennis ball. Players can only score when serving. The rules, while similar to tennis, badminton and pin-pong, are specific but easy to learn. A great place to learn is by watching a video tutorial or by visiting the usapa.org website.

Pickleball in the 941!

There are a number of locations to play Pickleball in Sarasota and Manatee counties including numerous public and private recreation clubs, parks and community centers including GT Bray County Park in Bradenton, Anna Maria Community Center, Herb Dolan Park in Bradenton Beach, Longwood Park in Sarasota, Foxworthy and Pinebrook parks in Venice and myriad other locations. The USAPA provides a full list of locations on its website.

And, according to the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources website, the Englewood Suncoast Pickleball Classic II is slated for Dec. 4 through 6. The double-elimination tourney is for ages 29 and up and features men’s, women’s and mixed doubles play on lighted, outdoor courts. For more information, contact Coach Russ Elefterion at 813-298-2022 or email coachrusselle@gmail.com.

Pickleball Terms

Dink –Soft shot with open paddle so it just clears the net

Fault – Break the rules, the rally ends

Kitchen – Non-volley and no-player zone

Lob – Hitting the ball really high to foil an opponent who’s advanced to the net

Poach – In doubles, crossing over to make a play

Rally – Hitting the ball back and forth

Serve – Underhand lob

Sideline – AKA out-of-bounds