What do you get when you mix the elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong? Pickleball. Yes, you read that correctly, pickleball. A game that was created by three dads in Washington to help their children’s summertime boredom. What started as a made-up game in a family’s backyard has now evolved into a professional sport that is gaining immense popularity in the U.S.
Pickleball has been around since the 1960s but is now considered (by some) to be one of the fastest-growing sports in America. The sport first gained popularity in the retirement and elderly communities. However, pickleball is a sport for all ages. Many middle and high schools are integrating pickleball into their physical education classes. Tennis and badminton courts can be easily converted for pickleball, also making the sport extremely accessible in local communities. Oh, and you don’t even need to find an existing court. Some creative people have even converted their driveways.
It has always been an all-gender sport designed for both singles and doubles on either indoor or outdoor courts. The paddles used for play are rectangular in shape, smaller than tennis racquets but larger than a ping-pong paddle. The ball used is very similar to a Wiffle ball, a solid color plastic ball with holes through it. Serving in pickleball must be underhand, and similar to tennis, you must serve diagonally across the court. To secure a win, the team or player must score 11 points and lead by at least 2 points. Tournament games differ and may be played to 11, 15, or 21 points.
According to USAPA.org, there are over 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts in the United States; and at least one location in all 50 states. In 2018, the Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships was broadcast on ESPN3 and ESPNEWS. USAPA.org says this was the largest tournament to date, with over 2,000 players and a $75,000 prize, the highest cash purse in the history of pickleball.
As for the crazy name, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), pickleball possibly got its unique name from the family dog named Pickle who used to steal all of the balls.
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