The NFL playoffs are in session. The NBA All-Star Weekend is coming up in a few weeks. It’s the middle of the NHL season and NASCAR is about to begin racing. But have you heard of pickleball? It’s likely to have been tossed around in conversation or come up on a news headline over the last year. In fact, according to a report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals, more than 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022. Needless to say, the sport’s popularity is growing.
Break it Down
Let’s start with the basics. We’re all familiar with tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. Pickleball essentially combines all three sports. While pickleball is a tad slower-paced than tennis, in which balls are flying at warp speed across a 78-foot court, it makes for a great entryway for beginners, or people who want to improve their hand-eye coordination. The ball is similar to a wiffleball, perforated with holes, lightweight and made of plastic material, and the paddle is said to be easier to handle because it is shorter and lighter than a tennis racket.
You can play singles or doubles—just make sure your teammate is of equal skill level as you!
Why the Craze?
Naturally, the Covid pandemic spurred the desire for people to find something new, different (and sociable, at a distance). Most of the die-hard pickleball players tend to skew older, but the fastest growing segment of casual players are under 30!
Experts say the spike in popularity is due to a couple of factors: it’s relatively easy to learn and play, it’s an inexpensive sport, and it’s quite a social pastime.
If you’re looking to burn calories and get a good workout for about 30 minutes, pickleball is a solid option. And the level of intensity can vary based on your preferences. Besides, what else are you going to do to burn off the calories from that bacon cheeseburger you had for lunch?
And being more affordable than tennis or golf just adds to the appeal. (Shall we remind you of how much a country club membership costs?)
Pick up a Paddle
Because the nets can be set up virtually anywhere with a hard surface, the game is quite accessible. After a quick explanation and a 10-minute practice round, you’ll be well on your way to getting it down pat! There are a handful of rules to keep in mind:
- The ball must stay inbounds. If your ball goes out of the lines, your opponent gets a point, and they can serve the ball for a new round.
- One bounce per side. The ball must bounce at least once on each side of the court.
- Serve at the baseline. Baseline is towards the back of the court. Only underhand serves are allowed (which are easier to receive than overhand).
- Your serve can’t land in the no-volley zone. This particular area is the lines box approximately seven feet from the net. When serving, your ball can’t land there, but after the first serve, this area is green-lit.
- Game point is at 11—but also 15, or even 21 points. Once a person or team reaches 11 points, the game is usually over. But the winner must win by at least two points. So, if one team has 11 and the other has 10, the game continues. Given this, scores can be extended to 15 or 21.
If you’re interested in giving the latest sports trend a try, grab a pickleball kit (complete with a set of fiberglass rackets, four balls, and a carrying bag) and find yourself a court!