Human Interest


Several years ago, I visited a long-time friend who lived in The Villages, Florida. He told me about a new sport he was playing called pickleball. This was the first time I heard about pickleball. He said people loved it and played several times a week. It does sound odd, but it really was the first time I had heard of pickleball. Jerry talked about it a lot and said how much he enjoyed it. The Villages had pickleball courts all over so finding a place to play was not difficult. Pickleball was probably the most popular recreational activity at The Villages, second only to golf. I was surprised—how could this game be so popular and I not hear about it! Well, it was, and I hadn’t….until then!

Pickleball is “the fastest growing sport in the U.S..” Recently, it was named the state sport of Washington. The reasons for its rising popularity are many. It is fast-paced and easy to play, uses inexpensive equipment, doesn’t require a lot of athletic talent, and suits those with lots of free time on their hands. Folks primarily in the 55-plus age group are more inclined to play because the scope of pickleball is limited, and a game or two doesn’t leave players exhausted and unable to play again without taking several days to recover.

I would describe pickleball as the “old man’s tennis” with a touch of ping pong, badminton, and wiffle ball thrown in. By that I mean, smatterings of each sport are incorporated into the playing of pickleball. Two or four players play on a court the size of a badminton court. A low net, like in tennis, divides the court in half. Players use flat paddles like in ping pong and hit a perforated plastic wiffle-ball-like orb back and forth over the net as in tennis. The server stands behind the end line, serves the ball underhand below waist level diagonally into the designated area on the other side of the net. The ball must stay in bounds and can only bounce once before being hit back. The rules are similar to those for tennis, badminton, and ping pong. 

Scoring varies. The game ends when one player or team reaches 11, 15, or 21 points, determined by local rules. To be declared the winner, your score must exceed your opponents score by two points, and points may only be scored when you are serving. On the serve, the player must hit the ball over the net into the opposite court. On either side of the net is a 7-foot “no-volley zone.” A player may enter that zone but cannot hit the ball in the zone unless it bounces first. Scoring is a combination of the rules of several games modified to be unique to pickleball.

The popularity of pickleball is a phenomenon! It is perfectly designed for older folks with the smaller court (44’ by 20’), a ball designed to travel only short distances, and rules that deter and discourage smashing the ball into your opponent’s body or face thus injuries are less likely. Games are short but give players a chance for exercise and social interaction. As in league tennis, levels of expertise are determined to match opponents fairly. 

To an outsider, it looks like a fun game, and it certainly must be because of its amazing rise in popularity. For the elderly who can still run and jump, it’s a fun way to get the exercise they  need. Like any sport, the competition is fierce, rivalries develop, and games can get “heated.” But it’s all in good fun and should be considered a recreational source of friendship and social interaction. No grudge matches, please.

So, what is pickleball? You can find out by getting the proper equipment, finding a local pickleball court, grabbing a few friends, and playing when you have time. If playing is as much fun as it seems, you just might get hooked. 


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  1. I enjoy playing the game. Covid made changes in how it was played. It can be noisier than tennis. The tennis ball bounces quieter that the pickleball whiffle ball. The cheering is more enthusiastic.

  2. I play twice a week and I love it. I have become re-aquainted with some high school friends and made new friends too. I’m trying to get Jim to play but so far have not been successful.

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