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Share to PinterestWhat Is Pickleball?

What Is Pickleball?

By Adam Morris
Share to PinterestWhat Is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that is something of a mix between tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played with a whiffle ball on a court with the same dimensions as a badminton court. The net and rules are similar to tennis, with a few adjustments. Because of its simple rules and straightforward style of play, it is increasingly popular with people of all ages and athletic abilities. Pickleball is also an inexpensive sport to participate in and is played in a multitude of gyms, parks, community centers, schools, and athletic clubs.



Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Congressman Joel Pritchard and friends, William Bell and Barney McCallum, returned from a game of golf and finding their children bored and inactive, decided to create a game that could occupy them. Having only a few badminton paddles, a disused court and a whiffle ball at their disposal, they began lobbing the ball across the net at each other. The game evolved the more they played, and an activity that would keep their kids busy through the summer was born.

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All Ages Can Play

Pickleball’s huge popularity is because people of all ages can play it. It is especially popular with older players as it offers cardiovascular exercise with little risk of injury. The pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, which means that players don’t have as wide an area to cover. The ball is also a lot lighter than a tennis ball and is served underhand, making it easier for people at all fitness levels to play. Added to this, the duration of an average game is 12 minutes, making it possible for players to take frequent breaks.

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How Pickleball Got Its Name

There are two official versions of how the game came to be called Pickleball. The first involves the Pritchards’ dog Pickles who, as soon as the game started to be played, would pick up the ball in its mouth and run off with it. The second has it that Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan invented the name. She says that it comes from the term ‘’pickle boat”, which is a boat that is often rowed by leftover oarsmen and is usually last to finish a race. Pickleball is so named as it has been assembled from the remnants of other sports.

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Pickleball is a sport that is played with paddles, and that has elements in common with a number of other racquet games, including badminton, tennis and table tennis. Participants play on a court that resembles a badminton court, that has a raised net in the middle. Players attempt to hit a ball, that is similar to a whiffle ball, over the net with their paddles. Point scoring follows along similar lines as badminton and tennis, and a match is won by scoring more points than your opponent.

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Health Benefits

There are a host of health benefits that come with playing pickleball. As an aerobic activity, it improves cardiovascular health and decreases the risk of heart attacks. It also increases muscle strength, improves energy levels, at the same time, burning calories. And because it is a low-impact activity, it focuses on balance and agility while carrying a low risk of injury. The combination of physical as well as social activity, also offers powerful mental health benefits to participants, such as improved mood.

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Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. There are more than 2.8 million players, and that number has been increasing by 12 percent every year. The reason for this growth is the large number of people that are moving away from practicing tennis. Because pickleball is a low-impact activity, it offers all of the health benefits of tennis without any of the accompanying risks of injury. The growth in the popularity of pickleball has, consequently, been especially prevalent amongst the retired community.

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All you need to play pickleball is a paddle, a ball, a net, and the right footwear. Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court that is bisected by a net. The paddles resemble table tennis paddles and are made of composite materials, wood or graphite. They are approximately 8'' wide and 15'' long and have a solid, hard surface. The ball is similar to a whiffle ball, has holes and is made of hard, smooth plastic. Indoor pickleball should be played wearing squash or badminton shoes; the outdoor version should be played wearing tennis shoes.

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Pickleball Terms

Ace: A point won by a serve that cannot be returned.

Dink: A shot that lands in your opponent’s no volley zone.

Dead ball: A ball that is out of bounds.

Groundstroke: When a player returns the shot after the ball has bounced.

Lob: A shot that is high and deep, and forces the opponent to return to the baseline.

Pickled: A team that has scored no points during an entire game.

Shadowing: Partners moving in tandem, keeping a 10-foot distance between them.

Volley Lama: An illegal move involving a player hitting a ball in the no volley zone.

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A Social Game

Most people take up pickleball as a way to get exercise and keep fit. But exercise may not be the greatest benefit this game has to offer. A pickleball court is considerably smaller than a tennis court, and the proximity to other players makes it easy for participants to engage in conversation. As a game, it is also a lot less formal than tennis, encouraging camaraderie and friendliness, rather than competitiveness. This has resulted in a pickleball community is very inclusive and encouraging, making it a welcoming environment for all participants.

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Pickleball vs. Tennis

Both pickleball and tennis can be played as a single or a doubles game. The scoring in both sports is also very similar, in that a player scores when their opponent is unable to return the serve. Pickleball differs from tennis in the type of racquets and balls that are used, as well as in the size of the court that is played on. There are also several differences in play between the two games. In pickleball, the ball has to be served underhand, has to be double bounced before a volley and also has to stay clear of the 7-foot no volley zone on either side of the net.

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