It seems to me that if a guy were to ask a female acquaintance, “How would you like to play pickleball?”, she might respond in several ways. She could take offense at such a proposition and even give him a slap across the chops. She also might say something such as, “Perhaps, but I’m not very good at this sort of thing,” or maybe “Sure, any time you’re ready.”
Gotcha wondering what this is all about? It’s about a recreational activity I recently became aware of – pickleball.
After having asked a number of folks if they knew what pickleball was – and getting some rude and crude responses – I figured I might share some of my newly acquired and incomplete knowledge. So here goes a sketchy overview of pickleball.
Pickleball is a game that is a kinda combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton which can be played as either singles (one person on a side) or doubles (two people on a side). The “official” pickleball court which is used for both singles and doubles play is the same size as a doubles badminton court which measures 20×44 feet. (Note: locally, pickleball is played using half of a basketball court and I’m not sure of those dimensions.)
A net is positioned mid-court similarly to a tennis net with the net height of 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left “service” courts and both sideline and end line boundaries. The official pickleball court also includes a 7-foot “non-volley” zone in front of the net on each side. The non-volley zone prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone. ( I don’t know if local courts have this provision.)
OK, so what about other equipment? Well, each player will need a pickleball paddle, which is smaller than a tennis racquet but larger than a ping-pong paddle. The first paddles were essentially wooden ping pong paddles, but today paddles are made of materials such as aluminum and graphite and are made specifically for pickleball play.
The ball itself is unique with holes through it like a wiffleball and there are different ball models intended for indoor and outdoor play. The ball travels at about a third of the speed of a tennis ball and is usually white or yellow in color.
Play commences with a “serve” which is delivered from behind the end line at the back of a service box to the service box diagonally opposite – as in tennis. Unlike tennis, however, the ball must first be bounced, then hit from a contact point below the waist, that is, the serve must be made “underhand” – none of those terrific overhand serves of tennis.
Scoring is similar to old-school ping pong, but with some deviations peculiar to pickleball that I won’t go into. The game is won when one side reaches a designated score such 11 or 15 by a margin of two points or more. If that margin is not reached, play continues until it is.
When I first heard of pickleball I figured it was something new, but I learned that it’s been around for about 50 years. It started in 1965 when a couple of families in the Seattle area found themselves sitting around on a summer Saturday with nothing to do. The story goes that there was an old badminton court on the grounds so a couple of the guys looked for some badminton equipment but couldn’t find a full set of rackets or any badminton birdies.
They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball with the net at the badminton height of 60 inches. They found the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and lowered the net to 36 inches. And that was how pickleball was born.
Rules and equipment have continued to evolve until today the formalized game is reported played by some 31 million people in this country and is the most popular recreation among seasoned citizens in Florida. Pickleball tournaments are held around the country with one recently being featured at a local YMCA.
Well, there you have it – the promised sketchy overview of an increasingly popular game that requires agility, quickness, and hand/eye coordination but at a level such that play can be enjoyed by folks well into their retirement years. There’s obviously a lot more to this subject that isn’t covered here and you can check out on your own.
And, ladies, if a guy asks if you would like to play pickleball, you might want to inquire about his pickleball equipment – just to make sure you’re talking about the same thing. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]