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a woman on a pickleball court
Hillary Richard
June 16, 2022

The Unexpected Delights of Pickleball

Our New Favorite Sport!

Almost 5 million people in the US play pickleball, doubled from last year.

It seems like only yesterday that I had never heard of pickleball. But really, it was a couple of years ago. Before I knew it, I couldn’t stop hearing about pickleball. I’m a tennis player and admittedly, we look down on other racquet sports. But I’ve enjoyed watching the occasional game of squash, getting massacred by my husband in ping pong, and pretending to play badminton. But pickleball? The name sounded so dumb. (As an aside, there are two competing stories as to how the game was named. They are equally inane. One involves a dog and the other a boat. No need to say more.) However, I’m only human and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone was talking about it, and a neighbor in Fire Island even built her own court. Her own pickleball court! And then this morning, my twitter feed blew up because a “grandma” beat some football players (Pittsburgh Steelers no less) in a pickleball game. 

So, I had to find out, what exactly is this pickleball? The name is obviously misleading. Pickles play no role. That was a bit disappointing. Instead, it’s like a weird amalgamation of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. A melange of racket sports, if you will. It’s played on a court the size of a badminton court, uses a paddle that is like a ping pong paddle, but bigger, and looks a lot like tennis but is less physically demanding. The court is shorter, so less running, and less stopping and starting (the source of many a tennis injury). The serves are underhand, so less wear and tear on your shoulders. But here’s the thing - apparently, it’s MORE FUN than tennis. Yep. There are a gazillion testimonials to this effect on the internet. Therefore, it must be true.

It is certainly true that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. Almost 5 million people in the US play pickleball, doubled from last year. (Oddly enough, it was invented in 1965, but has really only taken off in the last 5-10 years.) Approximately 75% of pickleball players are over 55! And they can’t build courts fast enough. Even in The Villages (that enormous retirement community in Florida where retirees ride around with Trump flags hanging from their golf carts) where there are 140 courts, there are long lines for court times. This is a fad that’s here to stay. 

But here’s the thing. Sure, it’s a dumb name. But pickleball actually has a lot to offer. It is a decent cardio workout. You can play doubles, so it is social. And it is much easier on the knees. It helps with agility and hand-eye coordination. It improves balance. And even Reese Witherspoon and Kim Kardashian are obsessed with it! If you play your cards right, maybe you can get invited to play on George Clooney’s home pickleball court. Or Leonardo DiCaprio’s. So ladies, grab your rackets, leave your gherkins and half sours at home, and head on out to your local court. Play ball!

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