What is it?
Pickleball has been one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports for years, chiefly due to its popularity with the over-50 set. It incorporates elements of tennis, ping-pong, badminton, racquetball and squash. The court is about the same length as and 7 feet narrower than the four innermost squares of a tennis court, and includes a 7-foot “no-volley” area on each side of the net.
How is it different from tennis?
This sport has a close association with tennis because of the similarity between courts and the conversion of tennis courts to accommodate pickleball’s soaring popularity. Official pickleball courts are actually almost identical to badminton courts, but the net is 2 feet shorter versus being 2 inches shorter than a tennis net.
The playing equipment is where you see the big differences.
A pickleball paddle is about half the length of a tennis racket and resembles a ping-pong paddle. The balls are a little larger, made of plastic and have holes like a whiffle ball, so they are lighter and have a much shorter, lower bounce than tennis balls.
What are its health benefits?
- Pickleball requires much less running, especially when played as a doubles sport (the more popular, but not the only way play it). This puts much less strain on the joints and lungs than most other cardio activities, allowing people who have knee issues or less endurance than a typical tennis player to participate.
- The shorter court and bounces result in a fast-paced game providing at least moderate exercise, which does lead to lower blood pressure and better cardiopulmonary function.
- The sport also requires agility, coordination and balance, which makes it ideal for kids learning those skills as well as adults working to maintain or improve their function in these important areas.
- Pickleball builds social connections, particularly for “picklers” who enjoy it on a regular basis and is a great choice for players from multiple age groups to share. Socialization and a feeling of community are strongly correlated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Rita Kavanaugh, Billie Orr, Tracy Homer and Peg Travers getting in a workout at the new pickleball courts in Pioneer Park. Photo from Billie Orr