Q: My friend recently invited me to play Pickleball with her. I had never heard of the sport. What is it, and do many seniors play?
Answer: Pickleball is a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. This team sport can be played indoors or outdoors and takes place on a badminton court using a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a wiffle ball) and small paddles. The pickleball net is lowered to 34 inches for game play, and each game is played to a score of 11 points. Similar to volleyball and tennis, a point can be scored only by the serving team. Created in 1965 by a group of friends who were initially looking to play a game of badminton but found themselves without a complete set of racquets, the group “pickled together” several items from different sports to create a game that everyone could play. In the very first pickleball game, they used a wiffle ball, ping pong paddles and badminton net. Since that time, the game has changed somewhat. The paddle has gotten a little larger, and there is a standard set of rules, but the core idea — that all members of a family or friend group could come together and play it — has remained a staple.
Today, it can best be described as a blend of tennis, badminton, ping-pong and squash.
Pickleball is quickly becoming one of the most popular group sports. In fact, in 2015 the Sports and Fitness Industry Association called it the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Coupling physical exercise with the emotional and social connection provided by team sports is a winning combination for many people.
Older adults especially seem to take to the game. It is likely that this is because it is easy for beginners to learn, doesn’t put a great deal of stress on the joints or body, has rules of play that are simple and offers a lot of social activity and interaction. To learn more about the sport of pickleball, visit the United States Pickleball Association at usapa.org.
In Forsyth County, the Jerry Long YMCA, located at 1150 S. Peace Haven Road in Clemmons, offers opportunities to play pickleball each weekday. Typically, the court is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.–noon. They advise you to call first, as availability is subject to change. Pickleball is also offered at the Stokes, Wilkes and Yadkin family YMCAs in surrounding counties. For more information about pickleball in our area, visit ymcanwnc.org.