What is Pickleball? For those of us living in the UK you can be forgiven for asking that question. But across the big pond in the US it is huge. In fact, it has been stated that it is the fastest growing sport in the US. Quite a claim!
Article updated April 2021.
Pickleball is a racket sport that is a cross between tennis, table tennis and badminton. It is played on a badminton size court with a low net similar to tennis.
It is played with paddles that resemble oversized table tennis bats. The pickleball paddles are used to hit a large perforated plastic ball.
Pickleball is played at a fast and furious pace with a lot of close net play when played by players of a good level. But the sport is accessible to anyone of any age as Pickleball is easy to learn.
Because the sport is easy to pick up and progress in, Pickleball is fun for all abilities. It is also an ideal sport for kids as the rules are simple and play is engaging. Pickleball clubs always have a friendly atmosphere with the members very encouraging as they all have something in common; they all love Pickleball and want to spread the word!
Also, unlike other sports like tennis where power (especially on the serve) can potentially win games, Pickleball is all about technique and skill. Advanced players play the game like a game of chess, with little dinks over the net to manoeuvre the opposition around before applying the killer move.
The sport is becoming a hit with the celebrities! Watch the following video of Robbie Williams playing Pickleball with Novak Djokovic at a Lacoste event:
For such a popular sport, Pickleball had a very humble beginning. Created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, three dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited for creating the game to keep their kids amused during the summer holidays. They wanted a fast and fun game with simple rules.
How the unusual name of ‘Pickleball’ was dreamed up is a matter of debate. But one of the originators claims that the game was named after the Pritchard’s family dog, a cocker spaniel named ‘Pickles’. Apparently, Pickles used to chase and run off with the ball during games!
Pickleball can be played as a singles and as doubles game. Points are only scored by the serving side, and the serves are underarm to the diagonal opposite side of the court. The ball has to clear the area behind the net which is called the kitchen. Unlike tennis, there are no second serves in Pickleball.
Both sets of players do try and get to the net as soon as they possibly can. For this reason, most Pickleball play is at the net.
When at the net players must be careful not to step into the kitchen area when hitting a volley shot as this is an illegal move. Also, players must not volley a shot from a return of service.
Why not find out what is pickleball for yourself by having a go? Pickleball is such a rapidly growing sport in the UK, it is more than likely you will have a club near you. There are various websites that lists the clubs in the UK, but I have found the England Pickleball Association to be the most extensive with a great list of events.
You are welcome to visit my local club (The Surrey Wassps). For those of you in Surrey, The Wassps play at Fullbrook school, New Haw, Surrey. Take a look at the Surrey Wassps Facebook page for more info.
Alternatively, the is the pickleballportal.com is a useful resource for finding somewhere to play around the world. It also has a lot more information about the sport.
Pickleball has taken the US by storm and is about to do the same in the UK. There is no better time to get involved in this exciting and fast paced racket sport.
It is also such a fun and easy sport for kids to be involved in. In a time where child obesity and fitness is such a growing concern, getting them away from gaming and the tv is a priority. Pickleball could be the answer?
I hope we adequately answered the question ‘What is Pickleball?’!