Seemingly a what-if scenario hatched in the minds of a bored family with a mismatch of sporting goods, pickleball’s the most fun you’ve never had. The platypus of sports, it’s a combination of badminton, court and table tennis — and, as funny as its name sounds, the gameplay inspires just as much enjoyment from its participants.
You can play pickleball with a single companion, or bring a partner and play doubles if you like! The ping pong-like paddles serve as tennis rackets, but with a ball of perforated polymer, rather than the fuzzy rubber ball familiar to tennis players. The court you’ll play on has the same size as a badminton court, and the rules are similar to tennis, with just a few variations.
The official rules of the game are listed in their entirety on the USA Pickleball Association website, but some of the main ones include:
- Gameplay is doubles—two players per team — or singles.
- Serve must be underhand, not over.
- Players must serve diagonally across the court, and the ball must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
- After scoring a point, the server must make the next serve from the opposite side of the court.
- The game’s normally played to 11 points, with a win by 2.
- Tournament games typically go to 15 or 21 points, with a win by 2.
- When the ball gets served, the receiving team has to let it bounce before returning, then the serving team needs to let it bounce before returning, otherwise known as the “double-bounce rule.”
The sport’s popularity continues to grow as people of all ages and backgrounds begin participating in both the play and the spectator aspect of the game. While it is not an Olympic sport, there are large-scale tournaments, such as the 2016 Pickleball U.S. Open. That tournament is now notorious for its low attendance of a mere 20 people — but the poor turnout had less to do with the game’s lack of popularity and more due to extreme heat.
The combined efforts of USA SHADE and Architectural Specialist Haley Maître resulted in a fully custom structure to protect viewers from the weather. As a result, the audience at the 2017 U.S. Open better reflected pickleball’s growing popularity, with more than 200 attendees at every match.
Currently, there are more than 15,000 courts in the U.S. specifically dedicated to pickleball and more than 2.5 million participants, but that number continues to grow. Between the quick adoption of the sport by the elderly and retired set, and the spreading interest within the youthful generation, the game proves to be one of the few to bridge the age gap, giving it a multi-generational advantage other sports do not possess.
Despite its broad appeal, pickleball’s just as competitive and exertive as its counterparts and influences, offering a great outlet for energy, a rewarding workout or simply a source of entertainment and merriment.