10 Things you need to know about Pickleball
1. Pickleball has been around for more than 50 Years
With the media attention that pickleball has recently been getting (it seems like there is a newspaper article or local tv spot about the sport every other week), you might be correct in thinking that pickleball is a new sport. However, a Washington State politician, Joel Pritchard, and some of his friends invented the sport more than 50 years ago when they were trying to play badminton with their kids, but couldn’t find any shuttlecocks. Rather than give up on having some fun, they found a whiffle ball, lowered their badminton net and fashioned some oversized table tennis paddles out of plywood and had a rousing game of pickleball (although it didn’t have its strange moniker at that point).
2. The name has nothing to do with pickles and was not named after a dog
There are no actual pickles involved in the playing pickleball and they have nothing to do with the sport's name. It has been widely reported that it was named after Pritchard's golden retriever, Pickles, because of its habit of chasing the pickleball balls. However, this was not the case as the sport was given it’s strange moniker a few years prior to Pickles the dog coming on to the scene. The name was actually suggested by Joel Pritchard's wife who was reminded of the Pickle Boat crews that were cobbled together from the leftover oarsmen of other fishing boats. In a similar fashion that pickleball was cobbled together from the gear and rules of other racquet sports like badminton, tennis and ping pong.
3. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America
In 2014 NBC dubbed pickleball to be the fastest growing sport in America. In the four years since that proclamation, pickleball has grown steadily in popularity in both the United States and Canada. It has been reported that in the US alone there are currently 2.5 million people playing the sport. It is also gaining popularity in Europe. Why did a 50 year old sport suddenly become so popular? There are a few reasons for Pickleball’s sudden gain in popularity. Pickleball is much lower impact than other racquet sports. With an aging population, people were looking for sports that still allowed them to stay active, but that put less stress and strain on their bodies. It is estimated that almost 70% of pickleball participants are over the age of 60. The monetary investment required to start playing pickleball is relatively low compared to other sports. Paddles and the other equipment needed to participate are fairly cost effective and the sport is being played at affordable venues like community and recreation centres rather than at just private clubs.
4. Pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors
Like tennis, pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors. Indoor pickleball will typically be played on either modified tennis or badminton courts and outdoors it is normally played on modified tennis courts. However, with the gaining popularity of the sport, dedicated pickleball courts and clubs are springing up all over the world. Not surprisingly, Florida and California have the most pickleball facilities. There are different balls for indoor and outdoor play. Outdoor balls will have smaller holes and indoor balls will have fewer, but larger holes.
5. There is an area on the court called the kitchen
One of the most well-known and unique rules in the sport is the “kitchen rule.” The kitchen is the 7ft area of the court on each side of the net that is closest to the net. You can’t volley the ball (hit the ball out of the air) while standing in the kitchen or touching the kitchen line. You also can't end up in the kitchen or touch the kitchen line after volleying a shot from outside it. If you are playing doubles, you cannot volley a ball while your partner is in the kitchen or touching the kitchen line. The kitchen rule was created to prevent players from standing at the net and smashing everything down to the opposite of the court making the game virtually unplayable. It might seem simple in writing, but during the heat of the game, the kitchen rule can get a little tricky to enforce.
6. You can only score points while you are on serve
If you are the receiving player or team you cannot score a point, however, if you are the receiving player or team and win a rally you induce a side-out, meaning you get to serve the next point and attempt to score. This is similar to how the scoring in volleyball and squash use to be until the switched to the current straight scoring system.
7. You can only serve underhand
Unlike tennis, the serve in pickleball must be done using an underhand stroke. The official pickleball rulebook states, “The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that the contact with the ball is made below waist level (waist is defined by the level of the navel).” The rule further states, “The arm must be moving in an upward arc and the paddle head shall be below the wrist when it strikes the ball.”
8. Regulation pickleballs must have between 26-40 holes
Like all other sports there is a governing body that regulates the equipment used in pickleball. They state that a pickleball must have between 26-40 holes. Typically indoor pickleballs will have fewer larger holes and outdoor balls will have smaller holes, but more of them. Because of the different elements affecting play between indoor and outdoor play, there are other differences between the balls used including weight, the plastic and colours used.
9. The International Federation of Pickleball is the world governing body for pickleball
The IFP was set up in 2015 to both grow the sport of pickleball and to govern its play. Currrently the IFP member countries are: the United States, Canada, India, Spain, France and Great Britan. The IFP is also attempting to achieve official recognition by the International Olympic Committee in order to establish pickleball as an Olympic sport.
10. There is a Pickleball Channel
Currently an online only channel, The Pickleball Channel (pickleballchannel.com) is a free subscription-based channel that supplies lots of pickleball video content. They live stream the US Open Pickleball Championships and have instructional videos, as well as videos that go into detail about the various rules of the sport.