A new kind of pickle that isn’t for eating

Go figure. The fastest-growing sport in America was named after a dog! And if you happen to have an unused tennis court, you may want to speak to an architect about converting it to “pickleball” — a new sport appropriately named in honor of the dog “Pickle” who spent a tremendous amount of time looking for his owner’s balls in the underbrush! 

A spokesperson for the USA Pickleball Association claims there are already more than 125,000 players in the States, and the growth is so astonishing the association tracks at least 30 new pickleball venues a month. A combination of Ping-Pong, tennis and badminton, pickleball was originally created in the mid-1960s in a backyard and is now showing up at some of the world’s best resorts thanks to its popularity.

There are several reasons for pickleball’s mass attraction, starting with the length of time the ball stays in play back and forth over the net regardless of the players’ skill set. It is also gender- as well as age-neutral while physically, it’s relatively easy on the knees and hips, is great exercise, fun and extremely social. Even the affiliated costs are a plus, with paddles ranging from US$45 to US$100, and six balls will run you approximately US$12.

Played on a court approximately the same size as a badminton court that somewhat resembles an oversized Ping-Pong table, the pickleball net is lowered in the center at 34 inches (86 cm) and is played with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a Wiffle ball but with a rigid material and smaller holes) and of course paddles, which are either wood or composite.

Like tennis, pickleball can be played in a variety of formats including singles, doubles, mixed and team play. Most participants follow a standard set of rules and in the United States, these rules have been set forth by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).

Being an ex-tennis player, I must admit I was caught off-guard when I learned about this new paddle sport trend as I was still in the mode of the bocce ball craze currently taking place in California. I’m curious to know if any readers have caught pickleball fever, and if so, feel free to offer a review on your thoughts of this newfound sport.