Pickleball: What it is and Why You Should Play?

You know how important it is to stay active as you age. One game you might be interested in learning about is Pickleball. You've heard it's a sport everyone can play and that it's a lot of fun.

But maybe you've never played badminton, tennis, or racquetball. You weren't even that good at ping-pong.

Can you really learn how to play Pickleball and enjoy it at your age? 

Yes, you can!

Read on to learn more about Pickleball and why it's such a popular game to play. The different ways Pickleball boosts wellness and the equipment you'll need are also discussed below.

What is Pickleball?

pickleball sign with pics of bright colored paddles and balls

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According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game was born in 1965 when three dads set out to amuse their bored children with a new summertime game on Bainbridge Island (near Seattle, WA).

There are varying stories as to how Pickleball got its name. But the unique term has survived as the game's name for over half a century.

While it's evolved some overtime, Pickleball is still quite similar to the original backyard game played in the '60s.

Pickleball is a racket sport that uses a solid rectangular paddle and plastic Wiffle-type ball. The game is played as singles or doubles (2-4 people) and combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.

Here's a quick introduction to Pickleball from USA Pickleball.

How Pickleball is Played

You play Pickleball on indoor or outdoor courts similar to, but smaller than, tennis courts. The net at the center of the court is also a few inches lower than a tennis net.

Players match up as singles or doubles and try to avoid getting “Pickled” (scoring zero points in a game!)

The server serves the ball underhand and diagonally across the court, and it must bounce before a player returns the ball.

Players move back and forth on the court and volley in their square (hitting the ball back and forth over the net).

Points are only scored when a team is serving. They're earned when the opposing players can't return a serve or lose a volley. The other team gets to serve when the server doesn't win the volley. 

Games are played to 11 points, and a player/team must be ahead by two points to win.

Strategy and ball placement are more important than hitting the ball hard when it comes to winning volleys in Pickleball.

Even those unfamiliar with other racket games can pick up Pickleball because the rules are pretty easy. 

It appeals to a bigger crowd than other sports because it's a game anyone with some mobility can play. You don't have to be able to run fast or hit the ball hard to enjoy (and win) Pickleball games.

While some people enjoy competitive games, many play simply because it's a game they can take part in and enjoy so much.

Why You Should Play Pickleball

In addition to being a game that's pretty easy to learn and play, there are other important reasons to consider picking up a paddle and heading to a local Pickleball court.

Physical health benefits

While it's true, Pickleball shouldn't replace your strength training routine; playing has physical benefits.

You'll move your body on the court, swing your arm when you hit the ball, and bend to retrieve balls during the game.

Some people play Pickleball for hours a day or play numerous times each week because it's gentler on their knees and shoulders than playing tennis or racquetball.

Social and mental health benefits

Any time you leave home to meet up with others, you'll spend time catching up and connecting about your lives. Companionship and conversation are vital to our overall wellness as we age.

The size of the Pickleball court allows for banter and conversations to occur while you play. And with the interest in Pickleball growing rapidly, you'll likely meet many new people when you decide to take up Pickleball too!

Hitting the ball hard won't get you far, but you'll need to think a lot when you play. In this game, finesse, planning, and timing are the superpowers that help you win points.

To stay healthy in retirement and while snowbirding, you must exercise your body and your brain.

Risks of Playing Pickleball

Even though Pickleball isn't as strenuous as some other exercises, there's always a chance you could get hurt playing.

It's important to talk to your doctor before you start any physical activity. It would be best if you also reduce your risk of injury by stretching before and after you play and wearing well-fitting, quality sneakers.

Falls are also a concern as we age. Keep your competitive spirit in check, and remember that Pickleball is just a game. It isn't worth falling just to score a point or keep your serve.

What You Need To Play Pickleball

You won't need to buy much to play Pickleball, so it shouldn't break your budget. A pair of USAPA approved paddles and two balls can be found on Amazon for about $20.

You can pick up an extra set on hand for playing with houseguests at that price.

Of course, there are plenty of more expensive options, including carrying bags and other accessories.

But when you compare the cost of Pickleball to other sports like golf, you'll find that an upgrade to $60 or $70 equipment is less than one round of golf at some courses!

Here's a set of paddles, three balls, and a carry bag for less than $60 that's rated 4.8/5 with over 1600 ratings!

You can even pick up your own net system, so you don't have to wait around at crowded Pickleball courts!

Where to Find Pickleball Courts

Communities are converting tennis courts to Pickleball courts all over the country. But there are also courts explicitly built for the game in some places.

An online search of your community and “Pickleball courts” will likely show you the locations near you. But if you can't find any courts that way, contact your local county recreation division or check in with fitness centers near you.

Pickleball and the Pandemic

Depending on the virus activity in your region, you may be able to play Pickleball safely following regulations put in place.

The USAPA has also issued guidance on Safe Return to Play. You can review those plans here

Are You Ready To Play Pickleball?

Staying active should be one of your main goals in your snowbird lifestyle. If you're physically able, Pickleball is a game you can learn to play.

It also offers numerous benefits in addition to a cardio workout.

If you're nervous about trying Pickleball, stop by and watch people play! Just remember, once the Pickleball “bug” bites – people might get competitive.

Look for a group that plays just for fun. You can find plenty of people playing who just want to enjoy the game, conversation, and company.

Next: Beyond Bingo: Great Games to Play with Friends

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