6 minute read


~story and photos by Evan Markley

What is pickleball? You might have heard the name of this sport that is sweeping the nation, but you might not know enough about it to want to give it a try. If you are curious, let’s delve into the details of the game that is becoming so popular here in Brown County.

Pickleball has been around since 1965, but has seen its most recent boom in the last three years since the pandemic started. This fast-growing sport is low-impact, meaning it’s not real hard on your joints. The court is smaller than a tennis court, making it easier to return the ball. The equipment is low cost compared to other sports, and the nets are often portable and easy to set up.

Some pickleball players at the Brown County Community YMCA were asked what they liked best about the game. While a few said it was an exceptional workout, or called it undeniably fun, the most popular answer pointed to the social aspect of the game.

According to statistics provided by Brown County Pickleball Club president, Danny Key, there are over 36.5 million pickleball players and over 10,000 places to play in the United States.

Pickleball is played on a 20ft x 44ft court, the same size as badminton. Players use special paddles to hit a hollowed ball over a net. It can be played indoors or outdoors—each with its own style of game and ball design.

It can be played in doubles or singles competitions. Doubles are played most often here due to local demand for court space.

There are two different types of hits when it comes to pickleball: groundstrokes and volleys. A groundstroke occurs when the ball bounces once on your side before you hit it over the net to the other side. A volley occurs when you hit the ball back to the other side without it hitting the ground on your side.

There are some rules that take away some competitive advantages one might have going into the game. These guidelines allow pickleball players to range in age, gender, and physical fitness level.

On both sides, closest to the net, there is a seven-foot section of court called the “kitchen.” Players cannot hit a volley while their feet are in the kitchen, even if it’s just a toe. This rule deters players from easily overpowering opponents at the net. Groundstrokes in the kitchen are allowed and are often called “dinks” because of the softer, repeated sound that’s made.

Every point begins with a serve and ends when there is a fault. A fault occurs when the ball does not cross the net, the ball lands out of bounds, or when the ball bounces more than once on one side. The serve is always underhand, and the ball must travel over the net, diagonally over the centerline, and bounce in the opponents’ service area before it can be returned. If the serve hits in the “kitchen,” does not cross the centerline, does not make it over the net, or lands out of bounds, it results in a fault. The ball must bounce on both sides before either team can volley.

Pickleball is played to a score of 11 (must win by 2), and the points can only be scored by the serving team. Each player on a team gets to serve at least once before it’s the other team’s turn to serve. One can continue serving as long as they have continued to win the point. If a point is scored, the server switches places with their partner and serves again. Once there is a fault due to the serving team, and both players on that side have served, control of the serve is given to the other players.

Pickleball in Brown County is currently played, mostly indoors, at the YMCA. The Y’s gymnasium is reserved for pickleball: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 5:30–9 a.m. and 12–3 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday 5:30-8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.–1 p.m.; and Saturday 7–9 a.m. There is also a time for beginners on Friday 3–5 p.m.

Anyone with a YMCA membership, day pass, or a pickleball punch card is welcome to come during these times to play. The Y is offering a pickleball punch card to non-members for $40, which grants 10 days’ worth of pickleball.

Pickleball has a bright future in Brown County. A recent story in the Brown County Democrat explained that Brown County Parks and Recreation has granted conditional approval for new pickleball courts to be built at Deer Run Park, on the west side of Nashville. This site would be funded by donors and grant money allocated by the Brown County Pickleball Club. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must approve the project before construction can begin because the park is in a designated flood zone. The proposal includes the creation of six courts.

Recently the Brown County Pickleball Club has been granted 501(c)3 non-profit status and currently has a board of four members. It hosts a blind draw, round robin pickleball tournament on the first Monday of every month at the Y. According to Key, in a few months people will be able to purchase a club membership for around $30 that would come with a T-shirt and discounts to tournaments hosted at Deer Run. The fee would help pay to maintain the proposed outdoor courts and host tournaments.

Even though pickleball is increasing in popularity, it presents a few small issues: the competition over gym/ court space, the noise, and the misconception that it is only for older people.

While there has never been a turf war at the Y between pickleball and basketball, new courts at Deer Run would certainly decrease the demand on that gymnasium. Pickleball is often heard before it is seen, but it isn’t much louder than basketball. New outdoor courts, away from residential areas would solve any noise problem. To counter the point that pickleball is only for older people, the largest age bracket of pickleball players in the U.S. is 18-34 years old (28.8% of the total), according to Key.

Now that you know more about pickleball, it’s your turn to give it a try.

Who knows, Nashville might even see some economic growth from out-of-town “pickleballers” coming to play in tournaments.