By Gina Ramsey
“What the heck is pickleball?” That’s the usual response from people unfamiliar with the sport. Unless you are a high school P.E. student or active senior citizen, most likely you have never even heard of this fast-growing paddle game.
“Anyone from age 13-85 can play,” assured DeeAnn Huddleston. A player for about eight years, she helps run a group of pickleball enthusiasts at the Seal Beach Tennis Center. After playing tennis and racquetball for decades, Huddleston was looking for a fun outdoor activity she and friends could continue to enjoy, but one that wasn’t as physically taxing.
“A lot of people who played tennis in the past but might no longer be able to keep up - for whatever the reason – they can enjoy this game,” Huddleston said. Even those who might have had injuries or ailments can move up and down and side to side on the pickleball court without the sprinting and fast-paced moves normally seen in tennis. It is a low-impact activity that is easy on the joints, which is why it’s so popular among senior citizens.
Pickleball is a game that combines several components of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It is played on one-quarter the size of a regulation tennis court with a paddle, a wiffle ball, and net. It can be played as singles or doubles. Regulation pickleball is fairly easy to take up once you know a few simple rules. But if you just want to start whacking the ball back and forth over the fence and rules-be-put-aside, go for it!
According to the USA Pickleball Association (Yes, there is such a thing), the game was invented in 1965 by three dads in Washington State. Their kids were bored with the customary summertime activities and needed something new in which the whole family could participate. While they played, the pet dog Pickle would run around the court chasing balls, which is said to be how the game got its silly name.
According to the USAPA, it is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, with over 100,000 active players.
Some basic rules: the serve must be underhand and cross-court and the ball must bounce first before the returning team can hit it back over the fence. Points are earned when the ball bounces twice; traditionally the game is played to 11 or 15 points, one point at a time. There is a no volley zone near the net where players are not to step into an area called the “kitchen.” Once you get the hang of it, the game can increase in complexity with rules but the heart of it remains a fun, social, and active sport.
Pickleball can be played at the YMCA or on any tennis court, but if you want to give it a serious try, currently College Estates Park and Marina Vista Park have dedicated hours specifically for pickleball players. Because of the large group Huddleston helps oversee, she prefers playing at the Seal Beach Tennis Center, which has several courts dedicated to pickleball. The big draw is enjoying a friendly bit of competition in the great outdoors!