By Erica Moe | Get Fit
We adults forget sometimes that getting fit can be fun. Being healthy and active doesn’t always have to be about cardio class and crunches. Fitness can be about fun and games, too! Throw in a funny name, and you just might find yourself joining the ranks of folks flocking to play pickleball.
Whoa, pickle what?
Dubbed one of the fastest growing sports in America, pickleball is a fun paddle sport that is a hybrid of badminton, tennis and ping pong. It was created in the summer of 1965 in Washington by three dads who did not want to hear one more “I’m bored” from their kids.
They set up a lowered badminton net, improvised with a whiffle ball and made paddles from plywood. Voilà! Eradicating backyard boredom became an international sport.
Pickleball is one of those sports that works for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple, and the game is easy to learn. Build a little skill, and it can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game. Pickleballers or “picklers” play indoors or outdoors. Two or four players use paddles to hit a ball over a net on a badminton-sized court that is lined like a tennis court without alleys.
There are more than 2.5 million pickleball players in the U.S., according to the 2016 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s report. The game is being introduced to kids and teens in physical education classes, and its popularity is catching on with all age groups. Additionally, retirement communities have adopted pickleball as an activity for residents. It is a unique sport in that teens and seniors can play each other.
Pickleball is not yet an Olympic sport, but it is played in the Senior Games. It’s an inclusive sport, as well, with rules in place for those in wheelchairs, which is referred to as para-pickleball.
How to play
The ball is served underhand so contact with the ball is made below waist level. The server hits from behind the baseline on one side of the center line and aims diagonally to the opponent’s service zone. Only the serving side may score. Play ends for a point when one side commits a fault. The first side scoring 11 points, leading by at least two points, wins the game. Tournament games may be played to 15 or 21 points.
Where to play
Luckily, California is second only to Florida when it comes to the number of places to play pickleball. USAPA.org is a great resource to find locations to play pickleball.
“Pickleball is now my exercise of choice,” says Bonnie, an avid pickleball player at the Mission Valley YMCA. “Running, jumping, sweating and laughing — you hardly even know you’re exercising because it’s so much fun.”
Join Bonnie at Mission Valley YMCA, where three pickleball courts are offered for open play six days per week. Look for clinics for beginners, as well.
— Erica Moe, M.S. is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist who writes on behalf of the Mission Valley YMCA where she is fitness director.