When a family member suggested that I write a story about pickleball, I had no idea what they were talking about. I received blank looks when I asked friends and acquaintances about pickleball. One person could not even understand the word I was saying – kickleball, bickleball? But I didn’t give up on my quest and was finally rewarded with knowledgeable pickleball enthusiasts.
Here’s what I learned:
What is pickleball?
According to Dace Hite, special events coordinator at Nano Sports, pickleball is a paddle sport, combining elements from tennis, ping-pong and badminton.
“It looks like you are playing ping-pong on a tennis court,” said Hite.
Two or four people play on a badminton court, 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. Players use a paddle larger than a ping-pong paddle and use a specially designed wiffle ball.
Where did the game originate?
In the summer of 1965, on Bainbridge Island, Wash., three dads invented pickleball for their bored children. As legend has it, the name of the game comes from one of the inventor’s dog, “Pickles”, who liked to chase the lost balls.
Just about anyone can play. Shawn Nichols, 42, was looking for a sport that he and his father could play together.
“I got into it because my Dad was a tennis player, I am a tennis player,” Nichols said. “He wasn’t able to play anymore. I was trying to find something that we could do together and it ended up being pickleball. He’s 70 and we play with people all the way down to nine years old.”
Why is it so popular?
USA Pickleball Association makes the claim that pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Tournaments, active leagues and a growing interest from younger generations help promote the sport.
It is easy to learn and is fast-paced.
Tristan Burns, 17, has been playing for almost a year. He learned to play in about 15 minutes at a free session.
“It’s a super fun way to get exercise, cheap to play, don’t have to spend a ton of money to do it, and you can play outdoors, indoors, very accessible,” said Burns.
Where can you play?
Nano Sports offers a free lesson every Sunday from 5-6 p.m. They provide the paddles and balls. Once you feel comfortable, beginners can play Sundays from 5-7 p.m. for $5. Advanced players play from 3-5 p.m. on Sundays for $5. There is no registration or sign-up for any of the sessions.
Additional locations offer pickleball for a small fee, $2-$10 per game or session. Many offer paddles and balls to use free. Check websites or call for registration, costs, age requirements and open court times:
Carolina Courts, 240 Chestnut Parkway, Indian Trail and 24 SW Spring St., Concord
Crews Recreation Center, 1201 Crews Road, Matthews
Dowd YMCA, 400 East Morehead Street, 704-716-6100
Huntersville Parks and Recreation, 14550 Ranson Road, Huntersville
Levine Jewish Community Center, 5007 Providence Road
Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation: Marion Diehl Rec Center, Bette Rae Thomas Rec Center, Independence Park, Tuckaseegee Park, Mallard Creek Rec Center
Photo: Charlotte Observer file