My Pickle Ball Journey
In compliance with federal regulation PB Green Ball Court 1-A, I started playing Pickle Ball [PB] earlier this year. Much to my surprise, I have really enjoy the sport and its become a passion. Some would say I have become obsessive, but what do “some” know.
PB is the fastest growing sport in the US. When I started I thought I was at the beginning of the trend. Turns out I am part of a big wave. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association stated the number of PB players more than doubled from 3.5 million in 2019 to nearly nine million in 2022. New research estimates the number to jump to 22.3 million by the end of this year. At this point, I suspect the only thing limiting future growth is the number of available courts, not the numbers who want to play.
A while back a teaching pro told me PB is easy to learn and difficult to master. This is one reason PB is a fast growing sport. Most anyone learn to play quickly and from there it is up to the individual at what level they which to play. Also, though some think the sport is dominated by seniors and certainly there are a lot of players in their 60s, 70s and 80s. However, in a recent study the largest age group is 18-34 at about 29% with the next two groups being ages 6-17 and 35-54, both slightly over 20%. I suspect for these younger age groups, PB will be a lifetime sport.
Another reason PB increases in popularity is it is a very social sport. Though singles are possible, most players at all ages and levels are playing doubles. I have seen very few instances where even though teams are competitive with each other, they are also friendly with each other. Add to this many venues have more players than court time, especially at certain times of the week, you have a lot of people visiting while waiting for a court to be come available.
BTW, most courts have a system waiting for the next court. Generally players put their paddles in a designated place and when a court comes open, the next four paddles [players] take the court. Unfortunately, where I play the order is based on rugged good looks and pleasing personalities which explains why I have not got on the court for several days.
PB is played on court that looks like a tennis court that they forgot to preshrink so the first time it got wet it shrunk to about one-third the size of the tennis court. PB courts have nets over which players must hit the ball. That’s not the hard part. Its easy to hit the ball over the net. The hard part is hitting the ball over the net and keeping ball in the designated lines around each court. If the ball touches any part of the line, it is in, except when it isn’t. When it isn’t is when on a serve the ball touches the line separating the kitchen from the rest of the court.
The kitchen is small rectangle on each side of the net stretching from one side of the court to another. The only time a player can step into the kitchen is to hit a ball that has bounced. For some new players, mostly men, some women, this can be a mental challenge as thy have not been in a kitchen for years. You can tell these players because they often mutter, “its ok to go into the kitchen“. Hitting a ball in the air with even one toe in the kitchen is a point for the other team.
One of the features that makes PB attractive and easy is when one team is serving, the serve has to land in the diagonal court not touching the line in the kitchen. Serves must be underhanded. The opponent must let it bounce before returning the serve and the serving team must let it bounce one more time before returning it. After that, the ball can be hit without bouncing as long as player is not in the kitchen.
The ball, is a round, generally green, plastic ball with holes in it. During a point, players hit the ball across the net with the opposing players hitting back unless it goes out of bounds or bounces twice. This seems simple in theory, but players can hit the ball high or low, fast or slow, directly at an opponent or one side or the other. If the ball hits an opponent, it stings but unlikely to do any damage. Many players wear protective eyewear in case they are hit in the face. Some gentlemen wear other protective gear, but frankly, this looks pretty silly and is really not necessary. If the ball hits a player, it is the opponents point.
In addition to all mentioned above, perhaps the biggest reason for its increasing popularity is its good fun exercise. Depending on how long I play, I will normally put on between 2 and 3+ miles each time I am on the courts. Players are also stretching and turning which can be beneficial exercises in themselves. Just like any other sport, there can be injuries with PB.
Part of the exercise component is it can be played by individuals in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Probably 90s also but I would suggest not asking a player if they are 90. This is a good way to end up wearing a paddle instead of playing with one.
I would suggest communities and HOAs be aggressive in building or adding PB courts. Its not build it and they will come, they are already there. All other things equal, I believe households looking at living in a residential HOA, will look for HOA communities with the most PB courts per residents. For HOAs with empty tennis courts and over flowing PB courts, they may want to think about that for a bit.
Ok, gotta go. Someone just called my name, time to play.