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Pickleball

I finally had the opportunity to play Pickleball. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a game called “Pickleball”. There is no food involved but there is a part of the court that is called the kitchen. 

I will admit that I avoided giving it a shot for a long while. I kept hearing about people in their 60’s and 70’s playing it. I wasn’t ready to be part of that crowd.  My opinion was altered when I saw kids saw playing it. Then it became intriguing. I’m keen to try any activity that appeals to the young and the older generation.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington by 3 dads (Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum) whose kids were bored on a lovely summer afternoon. The story goes that they set up the badminton net but couldn’t find a bird so they lowered the net, found a Wiffle ball and made paddles from plywood. Apparently, the name came from the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who would often run off with the ball.

I have now played twice. I am hooked. It has been more than 15 years since I have played a racquet sport. In my lifetime I have played competitive tennis and squash. I have also played ping pong. To me, Pickleball feels like a combination of tennis and ping pong played on a badminton sized court. Like tennis, the net is close to the floor. The ball that is used is bigger than a tennis ball but doesn’t bounce as much. The paddle makes it like ping pong. Hitting the ball (effectively) is more like a push than a swing. In fact my years of tennis and squash tend to get in the way of me putting the ball where I want it to go. It’s an adjustment I’m willing to work on.

The benefits of this sport are:

  • Cardio/Stamina: Pickleball is usually played as doubles (two people per side) but there is still a ton of movement. The rallies seem to go on long because of the larger/slower ball and the size of the court. That means you’re engaged for longer periods and that builds cardiovascular strength and stamina.
  • Coordination: You have to move your feet and swing a racquet to connect with a ball to get it over a net and within the boundaries of a court. That develops hand, eye and foot coordination.
  • Reflexes: That ball is not predictable. While it is slower than a tennis ball it can still move quickly. Sometimes if your opponent puts a spin on it, it does not bounce in the way that you are anticipating it will (speaking from experience here). It’s this type of activity that improves our reflexes.

I am stating publicly that I love this activity. It gets my body moving in ways it hasn’t moved in years. I am tired at the end of the evening and a little slow moving the next morning. While I am fit in some ways, I’ve lost my racquet sport fitness. I am happy to be getting it back in such a fun way. The best part is at the end of every match there’s a fist bump instead of a handshake. It’s the official Pickleball handshake. How cool is that?

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