Yes, it’s a sport. No, I didn’t make it up just now, solely to fill up this column, although that’s a great idea for my next column. If this is the first time you’ve heard of pickleball, blink twice. Wait, was that two blinks for pickleball, or do you norm- Oh never mind.
So, what the heck is Pickleball? Picture a tennis court. Have you seen the four small boxes close to the net, otherwise known as the service lines? The lines on a pickleball court are slightly smaller than these, with another difference I’ll explain later. The net used for tennis can also be used for pickleball, though it is a bit lower for pickleball players.
Pickleball was founded in 1965 by a man named Joel Pritchard. Basically, his family was bored and had nothing to do in the summer so he invented a new sport. The credit for the name ‘pickleball’ can go to Pritchard’s wife, who said the hybrid of tennis and badminton reminded her of the term ‘pickle boat’ from crew sports.
Pickleball is played with a ball like a wiffleball, but with more bounce and paddles made of wood, aluminum or graphite. The paddles are generally about half the size of a tennis racket, a bit larger than a table tennis paddle.
The rules are easy enough to pick up. You can play singles but it’s generally more fun to play doubles, so I’ll use that as an example. The four players stand on the end lines of the court (picture the service lines on the tennis court), two on each side. Remember I said I would explain the other key difference between tennis courts and pickleball courts?
A pickleball court has two additional lines that a tennis court doesn’t, one on each side. The lines are at least two feet from the net and they represent the no-volley zone, or the kitchen. If a player wants to hit the ball on the fly, they must be standing behind the kitchen. If they are in the kitchen and they volley the ball, it is a fault and the point is replayed.
You are probably more confused now than when I started to explain the game so I’ll backtrack. You can only score on a serve, so the team that serves first has the first scoring opportunity.
The person in the right-hand court always serves first. Servers get one chance to serve, unless the ball hits the net, which is a let and results in a second serve. Servers hit the ball underhand and into the diagonal box. The serve must land on or in between the line for the kitchen and the end line.
If the server’s team wins the point, they switch sides with their teammate and the process repeats. One important rule to remember is the Double-Bounce rule. The ball must bounce once on the returner’s side, then bounce a second time when the returner hits it back to the server’s side. Once these two bounces occur, teams can then volley the ball, or hit it on the fly. Games generally are played up to 11 points, with win by two following an 11-11 tie.
Why should you play pickleball? It’s easy to learn and fun. It’s not as hard or as fast as tennis, so less-athletic people can enjoy it too. It’s also ageless. I’ve played against people in their 60s and older, and they more than held their own.
I have a challenge for all you readers out there. After reading this article, look up pickleball. Google it. Find it on YouTube. Watch a few points and see if you would like it. Give it a try. Even if you hate it, at least you tried it. There’s a strong chance you might like it.
Tim Capruso, a senior, studies English. He is the Sports Editor of Le Provocateur.