Pickleball - Wait, what is that?
There is a new sports craze rising in the shadows of tennis – a sport that has actually been around for more than four decades.
It isn’t badminton. It isn’t racquetball either. And it is not ping pong. Nor is it wiffle ball.
But there are pieces of all five of these sports combined into this one unique, sour-sounding game called pickleball.
This funny name doesn’t even describe how the game is played.
The game is named after Pickles, a cocker spaniel who was an avid chaser of the balls during the games played by the sport’s inventors, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum.
Born on a badminton court in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a summer vacation destination near Seattle, Washington, the game of pickleball started as something for the kids – young and old – to do.
“So Barney and his buddies took us up here to the courts and said, ‘Okay, we got a new game for ya,’” said Bob O’Brian, friend of pickleball co-founder, Barney McCallum, and the owner of the first official pickleball court. “They pulled out the wiffle ball and cut up some of these racquets for us and said, ‘Okay guys, go to town and see what you can do.’ We started hitting the ball around and thought it was kind of fun. There were no rules of the game – the adults made the rules up for us – and it just took off from there.” *
Today pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., especially among older adults.
“Pickleball has really grown in popularity the last couple of years in Colorado and Estes Park,” said Matt Enrietta, Parks and Recreation Director for Estes Valley Recreation and Park District. “It is kind of like a cross between tennis and ping pong on a smaller court so it is a little easier on the joints and more accessible than tennis.”
The game of pickleball really is a mash up of several different sports – a result of the hodgepodge of equipment the co-founders had laying around at their summer retreat back in the summer of 1965. The court is designed like a tennis court using a net at the same height of 36 inches but with the total court dimensions one third the size of a tennis court. The paddles are similar to the wooden paddles used in ping pong. The rules are similar to tennis. The ball is based on the wiffle ball – tennis green but plastic with holes in it.
With its shorter court and slower play, it is popular with older adults who are looking for a low-impact option for staying active.
But it isn’t only for older adults. It is a multigenerational sport that has become popular with families, just like the three families that started the sport more than 40 years ago in Washington.
In Estes Park, there is no league but a core group of players always eager to add new talent to their pool of players. The four newly resurfaced courts, located at Stanley Park on the east side of town, are open to the public on a first come, first served basis. During the winter, drop-in games are played several days a week at the Estes Park Event Center Pavilion located at 1125 Rooftop Way.
“You really do not need a lot of experience to play pickleball,” said Enrietta. “You will have more fun if you play with people of similar skill level and you can watch online videos to learn the rules.”
Mr. Enrietta said that going online is the easiest option for getting equipment, and that the District offers two clinics to learn the sport.
“It is a really easy sport to jump into,” said Enrietta. “The equipment is inexpensive and it is really good exercise.”
For more information about the game of pickleball, visit the U.S.A. Pickleball Association website at www.usapa.org.
For more information about pickleball in Estes Park, including inquiring about the clinics or reserving courts for tournaments, please contact the EVRPD Recreation Office at EVRPDrecreation@evrpd.com or call 970-586-8189.
* Quote transcribed from a video from the U.S.A. Pickleball Association website; http://www.usapa.org/history-of-the-game/.