Who would have believed that Pickleball, a game invented on Bainbridge Island, Washington State fifty-one years ago, was destined to become the fastest growing sport in North America? The game owes its name to Pickle, a ball-retrieving cocker spaniel.
According to the US Pickleball Association (USPA) there are currently over 200,000 players in North America. Pickleball Canada reported six-thousand players in 2014 and twelve thousand in 2016, doubling in just two years – and the fastest growing group is 55+.
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It’s played on a badminton-sized court with a net a few inches lower than in tennis. Players use what looks like an oversized ping-pong paddle to send a ball back and forth across the net – until someone misses. Be careful not to step in to the kitchen!
To understand the popularity of the game, visit any pickleball venue. It’s a very social game. You’ll see people having a great time. One of the players will welcome you with a big smile, explain the game, and invite you to join in. You’ll play with a variety of partners and get to know them better chatting between games. With the growing popularity of pickleball, chances are someone you know will be there.
Pickleball is a fun way to exercise. The bending, reaching and court positioning helps improve mobility and flexibility. Striking the ball enhances hand-eye coordination, while keeping score helps with short-term memory. I’m still working on that, but no one worries too much about the score. Time literally seems to fly by, and I always leave a session feeling tired, but exhilarated. To get started, all you need are court shoes, and gym attire or comfortable clothing. Most venues provide paddles for beginners.
Even if you haven’t played racquet sports, Pickleball basics are easy to learn, but a good place to start is at a beginner’s drop-in clinic. After a few sessions, you’ll be ready to join the regular drop in sessions offered at many recreation centres.
Whether you’re a snowbird and flock south for the winter or travel close to home, there’s probably a |Pickleball group nearby. No matter where you go in the Pickleball world, you won’t be a stranger for long.
If serious competition is your forte, Pickleball accommodates that, too. There’s a range of fun and seriously competitive tournaments. Oh, yes. There’s one other thing I should mention. Pickleball is highly addictive.