Pickleball: it's a Big Dill.
December 5, 2019 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Though it started as a home-made game to entertain bored kids (YouTube), Pickleball has grown to be an internationally played sport (USAPA history), and this year marks a decade of the USA Pickleball National Championships. Despite the effort to (again) make the sport appeal to younger players (Wilson), Money's profile on the sport opens with the question: Are You Really Retired If You Don't Play Pickleball?

Pickle-ball® Inc. has the rules of play and court dimensions, if you want to try it on your own, while USAPA has Para-Pickleball rules. USAPA also has a site that maps official sites around the world. If you're really serious about the sport, you can register for and find official Pickleball tournaments.
posted by filthy light thief (28 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That Money article popped up recently, and the sport is wholly new to me. It's new to MeFites, but it's not a huge topic of discussion. Before this post, there were 16 comments site-wide about pickle ball, and only one AskMe question that touched on pickleball.

Also, the title comes from Wilson's site. Blame them for the dad joke (though I happily picked it up, so also blame me, I guess).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:55 PM on December 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Weird, this sport was called "paddleball" my entire childhood here in NE Florida and was big enough even in the late 80s that there were special courts and yearly tournaments on the beach, and just this year I noticed at a local park that what had for decades been called the paddleball court has been renamed a pickleball court.
posted by saladin at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pickleball vs. Paddleball: What’s the Difference? (Gamma sports, who sell tennis and pickleball gear, but not paddleball gear).

I'm learning so much today ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2019

My wife and I play pickleball occasionally. Our local parks and rec. dept. has converted some old, barely used tennis courts to pickleball and the park they are in has seen a large jump in usage. Apparently the sport is a biggish deal in mid Michigan near us. Lake Odessa, the next town over, has an 8 court pickleball facility that sees a great amount of usage and is the epicenter for a bunch of regional tournaments. It is a fun sport that is gentle on physically unfit specimens like myself, while still having a proper frisson of competition.
posted by Chrischris at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My in-laws live in a gated community in Florida that has a clubhouse with golf courses, tennis courts, and, yes, Pickleball courts. We're somehow on the email list for members, and my god it's all Pickleball tournament information. So yes, can confirm it's big among the retiree set.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

So, this is just human-sized table-tennis?
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My mom has gone hard for pickleball in the last 2-3 years. She plays at the gym, with a steady group. I get the impression that there's That One Guy who is making it less fun for the rest of them - a couple of them recently left and started their own, explicitly less competitive, group.

It is indeed something she has taken up in retirement.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:28 PM on December 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I came to awareness of pickleball by reading about this dispute about a year ago:

'I will literally bite my tongue off': Vernon pickleball feud spills over into B.C. court

Here's the decision from the B.C. Supreme Court.

Pickleball also was the reason a lawyer could not be reached in an impaired driving case is Alberta (if I'm reading this right):

The Appellant attached to his Affidavit an email from P.P. to his current legal counsel, dated August 13, 2018. The email stated that P.P. cannot confirm the date that the Appellant called him, but he can confirm that if he called on June 27, 2018, this was a Wednesday and he would have had to leave the office before 6 pm to make his pickleball game.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:30 PM on December 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think it's great. I spent some time at a place where I was introduced to Pickleball. It's much easier to just pick up and play than tennis, and less fiddly and "chase the ball around the floor" than table tennis. And you can just play it at a tennis court versus having to string up a badminton net.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2019

We had to play pickleball in gym class.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also: thanks for this post. I had no idea this was becoming a Thing. I just took it as " casual tennis for less athletic people with cheaper equipment." Kind of like playing catch versus playing baseball.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:04 PM on December 5, 2019

My mom's boyfriend plays this and is now getting her into it. I had never heard of it before him, either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:48 PM on December 5, 2019

I, too, count myself among those who until recently was unaware of pickleball. (I became aware of pickleball when I was editing a word problem this year for a middle school textbook that had a chart showing data about several different sports, and one of the sports was pickleball. I had to look up that it was a sport, and then I edited the problem so that it did not include references to pickleball.)
posted by 23skidoo at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh my god, my university is offering a pickleball class next semester, and I keep asking students if they have any idea what it is. Most of them say no, and one of them told me it's like a cross between tennis and ping pong, which was not that helpful. I probably should have googled, but I am glad it has been clarified.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:26 PM on December 5, 2019

I can state that as an architect who has the pleasure of including public recreation facilities in my work: the pickleball advocates mean serious business. It has been an element of two of my projects over the past two years. It also seems to be growing beyond the initial retired population. Expect to hear more about it in the future.

I have yet to play, but I miss the little bit of racquetball I was able to play in college, and I'm feeling too old to really learn tennis. So, I expect I'll find my way to a court sooner than later.
posted by meinvt at 3:32 PM on December 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

My wife and I play pickleball occasionally.

posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 5:18 PM on December 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm forgetting what our gym-class variant of this was called. Paddleball? Wall-ball? Because our version was half-court, played against a wall. Instead of facing each other and hitting balls over a net, there was a net-height line painted on a wall that both players faced and bounced their volleys off of. A slow speed squash or racquetball type game, without the enclosure. Bad weather, you played in the gym, good weather you bashed wiffleballs against the outside wall of the school after some lines had been drawn with chalk.

I think some enterprising gym teacher once tried it as Volleyball once too, 1 on 1 or 2 on 2, just a higher painted line on the wall; but nobody was into it.
posted by bartleby at 5:23 PM on December 5, 2019

Herr Duck and I took a Pickleball community Ed class last winter, and we had so much fun we're going to do it again come January. Neither of us is terribly coordinated but we're enthusiastic. The most difficult part of the game for us is to hold back from just WHAMming the ball over the net. It's a lot of light lobbing (at least, at our level) and trying to aim the ball in the right place.

There are four pickleball courts overlaid on the basketball courts at my Y. During pickleball time, 16 people can play at a time (four pairs of doubles) and there are usually at least that many people in chairs along the wall waiting their turn. It seems to be just as much of a social thing as a fitness/game thing, and I love that people are so into it. I'll probably not join in the game anytime soon...those seniors at the Y would seriously kick my amateur ass.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:37 PM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pickleball is sooo fun! I played it in high school. You can put some wicked spin on the ball! Yay, Pickleball!
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 7:48 PM on December 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My dad, retired of course, started playing Pickleball about 10 years ago. He quickly became a fanatic, playing almost every day at the Y. I went several times to watch him play, and it is a pretty interesting sport. Almost a perfect blend of tennis and table tennis. They played it in the basketball court, and the Pickleball court is played on the width of the basketball court.

Dad injured his shoulder a while back and the doctor told him to lay off Pickleball. But he still plays it, albeit carefully.
posted by zardoz at 2:57 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm a middle-aged dude who ... has been in better shape. I am actively interested in trying this out. Anything to get some exercise that's not mind-numblingly boring or geared for people in their 20s who are amazingly fit.
posted by jzb at 4:50 AM on December 6, 2019

I don't get the serve/scoring thing. It sounds like as long as I get my serve to land into a 10'x15' rectangle 20-some feet away, the other side can't get a point, regardless of subsequent play. That has to be harder than it sounds.
posted by MtDewd at 5:17 AM on December 6, 2019

It also seems to be growing beyond the initial retired population.

Purely anecdotal, but I know a number of people in the 20's and 30's who have started playing, although the majority of other players are retired. I haven't played but I have watched some, and it looks fun and approachable for a wide range of skill levels -- it's something that you can have fun at even if you aren't good, in other words, which isn't the case for a lot of sports.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been hearing the word 'pickleball' for a long time, but everyone always speaks about it in a way that assumes everyone knows exactly what they were talking about and every web link, post, whatever was written the same way. Glad to now, years later, finally find out what it actually means. It was like a sport version of Zombocom!
posted by haileris23 at 8:09 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

We played pickleball every year in my high school gym class. it was 100% the only gym activity that i actually looked forward to. I am not a coordinated or athletic person but i was somehow able to have fun playing this game. dang now i really want to play it again
posted by capnsue at 9:25 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pickleball has completely taken over the tennis courts at my local park and as a result of excellent organization, they have convinced the county to purpose-build a bunch more courts. It’s become a very big thing and at least some of the players appear to be younger.
posted by Lame_username at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I heard about pickleball about 30 years ago in my high school gym class. I heard reference to it, but I guess they let the guys play more "manly" things like floor hockey, wrestling, and badminton(?). It was a unit in girl's PE class, so I never played it, just heard some corny stats once about how much the girls PE classes at out school played it. I promptly forgot about it until hearing about it again recently.
posted by Badgermann at 11:04 AM on December 6, 2019

I played this game at Holiday Hill summer day camp in New England circa approx 1982. It is fun! But I have not seen it since then.
posted by Glinn at 12:30 PM on December 6, 2019

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