When the RVFoodys web site editor-in-chief(aka Carol), told me I need to write a story about my new favorite sport, I was stumped for awhile. Hmmmm, how to describe this game? OK, here goes.
Pickleball is a paddle sport, combining elements of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. The best way to describe it is that it looks like you are playing a hybrid game of ping-pong/tennis on a small tennis court. I know, weird huh? You can play singles, doubles and even a doubles vs single version. The court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. The paddle is larger than a ping-pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racket and the ball is a specially designed wiffle ball. There are indoor and outdoor versions of the ball.
The game was “invented” in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Three dads invented it for their bored children. Legend has it that the name of the game comes from on of the inventor’s dog, “Pickles”, who liked to chase the lost balls.
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. In my humble opinion, I believe it’s because young and old can play this game. It’s relatively easy to learn the fundamentals of the game, and it’s a super fun way to get exercise, cheap to play, and you can play indoors or outdoors.
When we decided to go to South Florida for the winter, I knew this game was really popular here. I was excited to check it out, and it has a big following at the RV park we stayed at, Gulfwaters RV Resort. There are four courts at Gulf Waters and everyone of them is bustling each morning. Great way to start your day!
So my first week at the resort I decide to head down to the courts to check out this “pickle ball” game. I make my way to the courts and sit and watch. It takes a while to get the “hang” of the scoring, It’s similar yet different than tennis. It looks fun so off I go to Dick’s Sporting Goods the same day and purchase my paddle.
The next day I show up and start playing.
Some of the players were younger, some the same age as me, and many older. Of course, I’m thinking I’m going to beat these guys with hustle and movement. WRONG!!!!!! Most of these guys I squared off against were hitting a myriad of shots(dinks, lobs, smashes, passing shots, etc.) that confused and in some cases, astonished me!
I had no idea a whiffle ball could move so fast. I heard all the jokes about a potential hole in my racket!
After playing a few days, a knee sprain(minor), was what it took for me to
slow down and take a few weeks to learn the proper strategy. Little by little I learned the game, and I realized I was playing a very competitive sport with friendly people who most of the time were older than me and merciless on the court!
I was having a blast! Everyone was willing to share little tidbits of information.
“Just keep the ball in play, force your opponent to make the mistake.”
“Get to the net as soon as possible.”
“No, it’s my turn to serve please give me the ball back!”
And my favorite, “Kevin, please stay out of the kitchen!”
Eventually I started to get the hang of the game and had lots of great mentors to thank for that. Thanks Terry!
Well, we’re now back to moving around the country in “gypsy” mode. The sport is not as popular in RV parks outside the areas of Florida, Arizona, Texas, & California. So it will take a little digging to find places to play. However, many recreation associations, YMCA’s, etc. are building courts and the support for the game is growing exponentially.
Pickleball is one of those sports that really hooks you! It’s easy to pick up, and you always feel like you are one good shot away from advancing to whatever the pickle ball equivalent of Wimbledon is. It’s fun because it’s not discouraging, losing is a learning process, and the learning curve never feels insurmountable.
I’m outa here, time to play pickle ball!