Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pickleball

There is a “new” game sweeping the nation, it is called Pickleball. New is in quotation marks, because Pickleball is not that new. It was invented in the US state of Washington in 1965 and has been gaining followers since then. It is most popular with the older generations, but all ages can play the game, it is even being taught in some high schools.

There are several versions of how the name Pickleball came to be. The one I heard first was that the inventor of the game had a dog named Pickles and named the game after him. Another version has to do with rowboats. In crew rowing, a boat in which the oarsmen are chosen from the leftovers of other boats is called a pickle boat. This is the real version. In fact the dog named Pickles didn't even exist until two years after the invention of the game. However, I like the dog version better. In my mind's eye I can see Pickles chasing after the ball, much to the annoyance of the players.

When I first saw the game played it appeared to me to be like playing table tennis while standing on the table! It is played on a court smaller than a tennis court with a net lower than a tennis net. Wooden paddles similar to the ones used in table tennis and a hollow plastic ball, roughly the size of a tennis ball that has holes in it, commonly called a “wiffle” ball, are used. Two to four people play until one team reaches 11 points with at least a two point lead, as in table tennis. The rest of the rules would take several more pages and are omitted here in deference to the reader's comfort and sanity.

In many areas in the US with a large retired population, such as Florida and Arizona, the game of Pickleball has almost attained cult status. On Cape Cod where I first learned of Pickleball, it is played outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter, by former tennis players (and others) who still have the desire for a spirited game without having to run more than a few steps to return the ball. In fact, I participated in a tournament which a 92 year old former tennis player - he and his partner won.

Beside the beneficial exercise, the game fosters friendships, not only while playing the game, but also during the after-game get-together in one of the local watering holes. I can't wait to get to the Cape to join the “Pickleballers” again!

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