What In The World Is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a racket sport that originated in the US. Fans of pickleball often compare the game to the more popular sports tennis and badminton, due to the similarities in gameplay. Pickleball requires the same type of gear as several other racket sports:
- A regulation racket or paddle
- A regulation ball
- A regulation court
- A regulation net
Pickleball involves two teams (singles or doubles) hitting the ball to each other over the net with paddles in an attempt to score a goal. The pickleball court is typically much smaller than a standard tennis or badminton court, making the game easier for anyone to play.
When was Pickleball Invented?
The game of pickleball was invented in 1965 by the late Joel Pritchard, a former representative of the United States. He developed the sport with a couple of his friends and their children over the course of a particularly boring afternoon in Washington. It’s said that the children were primarily responsible for creating the game’s rules as they found a substitute for badminton.
Though the game was originally intended for children, the state of Washington had its first official pickleball tournament in 1976. The game has only grown in popularity since then, with a sharp increase occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is it Called Pickleball?
Pickleball is a rather odd name for a sport, and it sounds more like a drinking game you’d play with your “weird” friends at a party than a national phenomenon. So, what’s the deal here?
After Pritchard introduced his wife to the new game the children had invented, she noticed that the paddles they were using looked a lot like a pickle boat. For those who don’t know, “pickle boat” is a term in sailing that refers to a boat of crewmen haphazardly placed together from other boats that were already too full. Upon making that remark, the game came to be called pickleball.
There’s a common misconception that the Pritchards named the game after the family’s dog, whose name was Pickles. However, research has shown that the dog was not even born when the game was created; the Pritchard family named the dog Pickles after their new favorite sport.
Why is Pickleball So Popular?
What started as a Washington politician’s family-and-friends game soon traveled across state borders and later took the United States by storm.
The game first emigrated from WA via snowbirds, or people who temporarily move to warmer states during the winter. Those escaping the hard northern winter brought this sport to more moderate states like Arizona, Florida, and California. The game has reached the corners of the earth, and there are currently 60 member countries of the pickleball organization.
Pickleball saw a sharp increase in players beginning in 2010, and as of 2019, there were an estimated 3.3 million pickleball players across the country. In 2022, Washington named pickleball as its official state sport, and pickleball players now number 4.8 million in the United States.
The Appeal of Pickleball
How did a simple game with such a silly name garner so much popularity?
One reason for pickleball’s popularity is all of the investing and advertising the game has received from famous sports players and other important figures. LeBron James, for example, both funds the pickleball organization and encourages others to play the game too.
Many people get into pickleball for no other reason than its low startup cost. You only need a few things to begin playing (paddle, ball, net, court setup), most of which are very affordable for the average person. This makes the game more appealing than many other sports that require hefty investments and fees.
Pickleball is also a versatile sport in that anyone can learn how to play and become a pro. Things like age and fitness level are practically irrelevant; the gameplay is easy on the body while providing good exercise, and the rules are easy to understand (even for newcomers). People who are older or not at their desired fitness level may prefer to start their health journey with pickleball over sports requiring greater initial fitness.
Fans of tennis, badminton, and even ping pong love pickleball for its similarity to other racket/paddle games and its more relaxed pace. If you or a loved one happen to enjoy one of these sports, pickleball is almost guaranteed to become one of your new favorite pastimes.
Finally, pickleball is a very social sport. This is due to its ease of gameplay and relaxed pace, though having teams play in doubles also helps! The game’s popularity peaked at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts believe it’s because it provided a social activity family and friends could engage in during lockdown and isolation.
Can Pickleball Save America?
It’s no secret that America is…not feeling its best right now. From inflation and politics to high obesity rates, Americans are facing a wealth of issues that make it difficult to look toward the future with hope. But that’s where our hero, pickleball, comes in.
While it may seem unlikely that this unassuming game from The Evergreen State could do something as legendary as save America, a quick look at the pickleball community tells a promising story.
Since pickleball is purely American in origin, the spread of the game throughout the country may help provide a stronger sense of patriotism during hard times. Additionally, as the sport continues to find its way to foreign countries, pickleball could easily become an Olympic sport and help unify countries through sportsmanship and camaraderie.
Division is arguably one of the worst problems facing American society today. The social nature of pickleball—and sports in general—may encourage people of different backgrounds and beliefs to develop meaningful relationships with each other through the game. In this way, the spread of pickleball could save America by creating a more peaceful and unified environment for people to socialize in.
Finally, pickleball could be a major player in the battle to reduce the obesity rate in America. This is because, unlike the vast majority of sports available to Americans, pickleball is both cheap and easy to begin playing. There are no prerequisites to playing pickleball in terms of age, weight, fitness, or even general sports ability. Anyone can pick it up, and anyone can play. It’s even wheelchair-friendly! This will encourage a greater number of Americans to begin exercising, thus helping end the obesity crisis.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pickleball
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked pickleball questions.
When did pickleball become popular?
The game of pickleball began to grow in popularity in 1976, when Washington held its first pickleball tournament. This event cemented pickleball as a sport that was fun, competitive, and—most importantly—going places.
In 2010, pickleball saw an unprecedented spike in the number of players across the country, and that number has continued to skyrocket.
Experts also credit the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2019, with the traction pickleball has gained over the past few years. People desperate for exercise, sunlight, and social interaction began setting up makeshift pickleball courts in their yards or driveways to play with friends and family. And, well, it doesn’t look like pickleball is going anywhere but up.
What is the average age of pickleball players?
The average age of pickleball players in the United States is 38 years old, and this is based on data from the country’s 4.8 million players.
That said, people of all age groups are reaping the benefits of playing this simple, unassuming sport. While pickleball is often viewed as a sport for older people due to its easy gameplay and setup, the average age of pickleball players is actually on the decline! Today, all kinds of people are hitting the courts—whether they’re two or 102.
What kind of ball is used in pickleball?
Pickleball players use balls similar to Wiffle balls. However, there are a couple of key differences between Wiffle balls and pickleballs:
- Pickleballs weigh a little bit more than Wiffle balls. Standard pickleballs weigh just under 0.9 ounces, while Wiffle balls weigh about 0.7 ounces.
- Pickleballs have differently shaped, sized, and spaced holes than Wiffle balls. A pickleball has several round, evenly spaced holes as opposed to the eight oblong ones on a Wiffle ball.
You can get started by purchasing a set of pickleballs at your local sports store or online! They’re relatively cheap and readily available for the pickleball-curious like yourself.
Where can I play pickleball?
Just about anywhere! You have several options when it comes to playing pickleball:
- Join a local pickleball group and play at their usual location.
- Purchase a net, ball, and paddle, and set everything up in your own backyard.
- Ask local gyms, sports clubs, or community centers if you can play there.
- Find new pickleball friends by setting up a court at a nearby park. `
As long as the location where you want to play doesn’t prohibit you from setting up a court and playing, you’re good to go. That said, you should always check with local authorities if you’re not sure!
Where do I find pickleball rules?
You can find pickleball rules online or in books written by expert players.
The best place to find rules you can trust is the official pickleball website at USAPickleball.org. They provide the official gameplay and setup rules so you can be sure to start off your pickleball adventure on the right foot.
For a comprehensive overview of the rules, make sure to stay tuned for our upcoming article on pickleball rules. Or, consider browsing your local library or bookstores for books about this up-and-coming sport—there are more than you might think!
What size is a pickleball court?
A standard pickleball court will follow these dimensions:
44’ long x 20’ wide
This is notably smaller than a tennis court (78’ long x 27’ or 36’ wide), making pickleball both easier on new players and more social.
How many calories do you burn playing pickleball?
As with any exercise, the number of calories you can burn playing pickleball depends on various factors:
- Your size and weight
- Your sex
- How long you play
- How hard you play
According to the USA Pickleball Association, someone who weighs 150 pounds and plays for 30 minutes at a casual pace can expect to burn around 250 calories.
If you’re looking for a simple, fun, and addicting way to start losing weight or getting into better shape, pickleball may be just the thing for you!
Pickleball is the newcomer and underdog of sports that’s taking America by storm. This sport is cheap to begin playing, the rules and terminology (what the heck is the “kitchen,” anyway?) are so easy to learn, and the gameplay exerts just enough energy to help you get back in shape—something a lot of us desperately need after a long pandemic.
More importantly, pickleball may be just what this country needs to become united again. This sport was born in the USA, grew to be adored by millions, and joined people together in friendship and sportsmanship who may never have otherwise met each other.
If you haven’t tried your hand at pickleball yet, this is the excuse you’ve been looking for. Pick up a paddle, grab a ball, and invite your loved ones to join you on this adventure.