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Feature

The Funny Named Sport Called “Pickleball”

todayMarch 21, 2022 8

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The Funny Named Sport Called “Pickleball”

By Hannah Dunbar

 

There is a sport called “Pickleball” that has been sweeping through America and no, it has nothing to do with pickles at all. It is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Two to four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net. The ball is much like a whiffle ball, with 26–40 round holes. It can be played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and with a slightly modified tennis net. It is a game that can be enjoyed by all ages.

 

The sport is governed by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPickleball.org), which maintains the rules, promotes the sport, sanctions tournaments, and provides player ratings. All the information about the sport can be found there.

 

This sport was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. One summer, these kids were bored with their usual summertime activities, so their fathers- Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum came up with Pickleball to combat their boredom. Pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the United States and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts.

 

The origin of the game’s name is very interesting, especially since no pickles were used even in the original game. Accounts of how the name originated differ. 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.”

 

However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchard’s 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.”

 

An estimated 4.8 million people in the U.S. now play pickleball. Out of the 4.2 million players the previous year, 2.8 million were “casual” players who play 1-7 times a year. 1.4 million were “core” players who play 8 or more times a year. The average age for core players is 47.5 and casual players 33.6 years old- and 60% of core players are 55 years old or older. 79% of the casual players are 54 years old or younger.

 

Participation has increased by 39.3% in the past two years. The Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR) for all players from 2017 to 2020 was 10.5%, for a total growth rate of 34% over three years. 61% of participants are men and 39% are women.

 

From 2016-2020, the percentage of core players ages 54 and younger grew from 40% to 46% and the percentage of casual players ages 54 and younger grew from 79% to 80%. These increases in the percentages of both core and casual players less than 55 years of age reflect faster growth among younger players.

 

Why is pickleball increasing in popularity at such a fast rate? Well, first of all, it’s a fun social game, and the rules are easy for beginners to learn. Players can pick up the sport in a single session and don’t need any expensive gear or special apparel unlike other sports like football or basketball.

 

Pickleball is played on a small court that is the same size as a doubles badminton court and measures 20×44 feet. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a 7-foot non-volley zone in front of the net- which is referred to as the “kitchen.” Courts can be constructed specifically for pickleball or they can be converted using existing tennis or badminton courts.

 

The small court means little running around. This has made the sport especially popular with senior citizens whose stiff backs or aching knees make it harder for them to run around a large court. They can still get their exercise without being in so much pain.

 

Competitive paddles used in pickleball are constructed from a high-tech composite. An official pickleball is made of plastic and is between .78 to .935 ounces and 2.874 to 2.972 inches in diameter. There are no color restrictions other than the ball must be one single, consistent color. USA Pickleball has tested and approved several outdoor and indoor balls for official tournament play.

 

There are five basic simple rules for pickleball, these rules are:

 

  1. The ball must stay inbounds.
  2. There should be one bounce per side.
  3. Serving must be done at the baseline.
  4. The serve can’t land in the no-volley zone.
  5.  The game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points

 

There are some very minor rules as well. For example, the ball can’t bounce twice. Other than that, there aren’t too many rules for this family friendly game. Pickleball is a simple, fun game that anyone can pick up and play, but yet it’s deep in strategy. These are the essential rules that every beginner needs to learn.

 

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. Most of pickleball’s players are over age 65, but the game is getting younger, with the strongest growth among players under 55, according to USA Pickleball. With so many new players, the U.S. is struggling to keep up with the demand for more pickleball courts. The country has only about 10,000 places to play, by USA Pickleball’s count, but that continues to grow by several dozen every month. Sports clubs and hotel groups are converting tennis courts to or building new courts for this growing sport.

 

Pickleball is going from amateur to pro. Pickleball is proving attractive to a wide range of corporate sponsors as the sport seeks new sources of revenue. USA Pickleball supports and sanctions tournaments throughout the United States. In 2009, USA Pickleball held the first Nationals Pickleball Tournament in Buckeye, Arizona

 

USA Pickleball has two dozen brand partners. Pickleball is also fast becoming a spectator sport. Its first professional tournament, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour, formed in 2018 and was recently acquired by the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, Tom Dundon.

 

USA Pickleball sanctioned a second pro tour that was started a year later by the Association of Pickleball Professionals. Catherine Parenteau is the top female pickleball player as well as a former elite tennis player. Parenteau is a 27-year old Canadian who was playing tennis at Michigan State University when her coach asked her if she’d be interested in pickleball. At first, she hesitated as she thought the name was bizarre and weird. Once she gave the game a chance though, she was hooked.

 

Parenteau started playing in Oct. 2016, and competed in the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship six months later. She’s now top-ranked in the world in both women’s singles and doubles. Parenteau plays full-time, with a few breaks during the winter. This year alone, she has plans to play in 22 tournaments around the country. She still watches Tennis, but she no longer plays the sport as she found her passion for pickleball.

 

The top male pickleball player is a 23-year old college student named Ben Johns. Johns started playing pickleball in Feb. 2016. Two months later, he took part in his first competitive match. In between his material science engineering classes at the University of Maryland, he’s also playing 22 tournaments this year. Johns will be graduating from the university in the spring. Johns is top ranked player in both men’s singles and doubles, the latter of which he plays with his older brother, Collin Johns. His favorite person to play the sport with though is his younger 5-year old sister since the game can be played by all ages.

 

Johns also owns Pickleball Getaways, which plans all-inclusive pickleball vacations all over the world. Several of its upcoming summer trips to Croatia and Portugal are sold out. He also runs a subscription instructional video company known as “Pickleball 360”.

 

Every US state and all Canadian provinces now have pickleball venues, including senior residence communities. USA Pickleball compiles the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of places to play on a new dedicated website: place2play.org. The known places to play totaled 9,524 at the end of 2021, an increase of 789 locations or approximately 66 new locations per month.

 

This year, 2022 now marks the 57th anniversary of pickleball as it was created in 1965. The sport will most likely continue to increase in popularity especially as it’s becoming more pro and more courts are being built. I am excited to see the game continue to spark interest among both the older and younger generation as well as seeing more of it on national TV.

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