4 minute read

Pick Up Pickleball

For any age. For any skill level. Pickleball is a “newer” sport sweeping the nation, with more than a half-million people picking up a paddle since 2020. Since its improvisedinception in 1965, the sport has only increased its fan base.Where did it come from? What is it? How is it played? Whydo people love it so much? Are there pickles involved?

Pickleball is a moderately-intensive sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It can be played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-size court with a slightly-modified tennis net. It’s played using pickleball paddle (like ping pong but bigger) and a plastic ball with holes (similar to a wiffleball). It can be played as singles or doubles with people of all ages and skill levels.

As for its origin, “necessity is the mother of invention:” the game was invented in 1965 by a crew of dads trying to entertain their bored children, using pieces of other games when the badminton rackets were nowhere to be found. They subbed in ping pong paddles and used a perforated plastic ball and lowered the badminton net. Now, thanks to inventors Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell from Bainbridge, Washington, children (and adults alike) never have to be bored again.

Pickleball games last about 15 minutes, with two (singles) or four (doubles) players hitting the perforated ball over the net, using side-out scoring, only giving points to the serving team. The team that reaches 11 points first (by more than 2 points over the other team) wins. Much of pickleball is similar to other racquet-style sports, and many players will be happy to teach you all the official rules of serving, the non-volley zone and the rule of the double-bounce.

Play like a Local

Local players venture to Plaza Park for a place to play. Visalian Laura Lewis volunteers her time hosting Friday night community events where four levels of games are played: beginner, intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced. Depending on how many players there are in the doubles games, winners stay on the court, while the next challengers come on the court to play, allowing players to meet new people all the time.

Brett Winn hosts a Monday night beginner’s group at Plaza Park to learn the basics: rules and techniques can start your pickleball game off on the right foot.

Feeling confident? Sign up to join the Pickle-brawl Scramble League, sponsored by the Visalia Parks and Recreation Department. It’s an adult sports class designed to help improve play and allow for socializing.

Each player plays 6 rounds in the round-robin scramble with a different doubles partner each round. Additionally, there are ranked games at each session, with scores tallied weekly. The Pickle-brawl champion is determined by the total 4-week score.

Johanna Coyne, the official Visalia Pickleball Ambassador, assists with the Monday night group. Johanna also updates the Visalia section of the USA Pickleball Places2Play app—an app that allows pickleball players to look up pickleball court locations and info in the U.S. and Canada. It’s particularly helpful when going on vacation and you just can’t leave your new addiction (and paddle) behind!

For a head start, join the Pickleball Visalia Facebook group, to find local tournaments and friendly teammates, and secure court reservations.

Despite the strange name, it’s time to become familiar with this ever-growing phenomenon that’s bringing together the community in a fun sport meant for all ages.

Your Starter Kit

Tennis Shoes

Choosing shoes with a thicker sole will give you better support and slow down the wear and tear from the court.

Paddle

A lightweight paddle that fits comfortably in your hand is a good starting point, but a mid-weight paddle (around 7.5 ounces) will allow more power to drive the ball.

Ball

The outdoor pickleball ball is designed with 40 holes to achieve consistent flight and bounce. Reinforced seams to prevent splitting and bright colors for easier visibility are also key elements.

Gear Bag

Use a bag to conveniently keep your equipment in one place. Don’t forget to include essential accessories like a cooling towel, visor, and water.