Your guide to the game

SAN DIEGO – It’s almost inevitable: that silly-sounding-named sport that your family member, co-worker, or friend keeps talking about these days.

A pickleball phenomenon is sweeping the United States, including in recreational sports-obsessed California. At courts across the state, you’ll find players happily hitting a wiffle-like ball back and forth over a net every day of the week.

You may also hear some arguments about playing space, a growing reality of the sport’s similar needs to those of tennis. Facilities can’t meet the rising demand for designated dishes — at least not yet. Cities and park departments across California are working to expand their offerings and keep the peace.

Officials are convinced by pickleball evangelists the game is here to stay. They point to its status as the nation’s fastest growing sport over the past two years. According to the Association of the Sport and Fitness Industry.

“Can Pickleball Save America?” a newer long form Article in the New Yorker asks. The play does not read sarcastically.

So, yes, it’s fair to say that interest in the sport has peaked. For the uninitiated, here’s what you need to know:

Another product of the pandemic

Pickleball is older than you might think, says Chuck Menke, the company’s chief marketing officer USA Pickleball. In a phone interview with, he said the game’s origins date back to Washington state in the mid-1960s.

Since then, a small but committed group has been playing in their free time. It is also a staple of physical education classes across the country. But everything changed with the corona pandemic.

Menke’s organization functions as the national governing body of the sport in the United States. Its members saw growing interest as people sought new hobbies, particularly ones enjoyed outdoors with a reduced risk of disease.

“The pandemic has been an opportunity for people to get outside, try new things, and it’s really lent itself to the growth of the game,” Menke said. “A lot of people started picking it up.”

The number of people playing pickleball nationwide increased nearly 15% from 2020-2021 after growing more than 21% the year before. according to industry statistics. It adds up to at least 4.8 million players ranging from “casual” (the vast majority) to competitive.

(Photo courtesy of USA Pickleball)

Menke believes the game’s smaller space offers an easy intimacy. It offers the perfect combination of pandemic distancing and social connection, he said. It’s something that people have been really craving for the past few years.

“It’s a bit more social than some other racquet sports, you’re closer together,” Menke told FOX 5. Also, “you have the opportunity to hang out before and after the game.”

How to play the game

For the layman, the basic elements of Pickleball are fairly easy to understand. It looks like shrunken tennis and works similarly enough that beginners can pick up and play a rudimentary game almost immediately.

The court

A Pickleball Court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. In contrast, a tennis court is 78 feet by 36 feet. The nets used in the two sports are similar — about three feet tall — with a pickleball net that sags two inches by 34 inches in the middle.

USA Pickleball has a complete Instructions for setting up a temporary pickleball court here.


A basket of yellow pickleballs that resemble wiffle balls in appearance and come in a variety of colors. (Getty Images)

Pickleball racquets are smaller than a tennis racquet and larger than a ping-pong racquet. They’re usually made out of composite materials, including aluminum and graphite, but vintage wooden paddles are still in rotation too.

The ball is unique for its holes, similar to a wiffle ball. Different styles are used for indoor and outdoor games. They come in several bright colors.

Cash USA Pickleballs equipment guide here.

The game

Players cluster back and forth over the net after a treacherous serve across the court. Points are scored and awarded from the serving side only if the other team fails to return the ball to the field of play.

A non-volley zone known as the “kitchen” lines the area closest to the net. If you’re standing in the kitchen, you can’t volley (hit the ball before it bounces).

In both doubles and singles pickleball games, players use the full width of the court. Doubles are a popular option, especially for those who use the sport for lower-impact exercise. Singles, of course, involve more running.

Basic strategy generally dictates that players climb to the net as quickly as possible. Much of double pickleball is played with all four participants near the kitchen.

There are some quirks with serving order and other rules, but counting is easier than tennis at first glance. Games are played to 11 and teams must win by two.

look at that Series of tutorials for a deeper insight.

Pickleball Courts and the Battle for Space

The supply of pickleball courts has not yet met the demand in many places.

Tennis courts are often the most natural surface for setting up temporary courts or for proposals to dedicate a portion of the playing surface permanently to Pickleball. This has at times led to tensions between the sports.

And one group has the majority: tennis players nationwide Dwarf pickleball contestant more than four to one.

In an official capacity, the governing bodies of the Games generally adopt a conciliatory tone.

In his official statement of guidance On the subject, the United States Tennis Association is calling for the development of more dedicated websites for both sports that “provide optimal opportunities for utilization, harmony, and revenue generation.”

“We support all sports and activities,” Menke told FOX 5. And as for fighting for the limited space on the court, “There’s always going to be growing pains,” he said. “We’re not trying to replace tennis in any form.”

But things sometimes got tricky on site between the die-hards. In San Diego, a group of pickleball players are looking to convert 12 Mission Bay tennis courts — which they say are underused — into a facility dedicated to their sport. This is much to the chagrin of tennis players, who say they are still active and should not be forced.

It has led to some full houses and passionate pleas at otherwise sparsely attended public meetings. Similar scenes played out PalmSprings to the bay area.

Finally, Menke reiterated the Tennis Association’s endorsement of dedicated pickleball courts (via the conversion of existing tennis facilities), although he said there is space for multi-purpose courts as well.

“That’s really key to the continued growth of the sport, making sure there’s access to the facilities,” he said.

A youth game

Menke says if there’s a persistent misconception about pickleball, it’s that only older people play.

Jay Dvilliers and Pat Smith, two of the best professional pickleball players in the world. (Photo courtesy of USA Pickleball)

True, many pickleball devotees are tennis players transitioning to a lower-impact sport or seniors staying active. But the game has clearly gained popularity among younger groups, Menke says.

The number of 18-34 year olds playing the game in 2021 was about the same as those aged 55 and over. according to the statistics of his organization.

The youth movement is fully evident in the game’s growing competitive circles. You can follow professional play in the Professional Pickleball Association and the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

Menke and company are already gearing up for the 2022 US Pickleball National Championships in November, taking place near Palm Springs in Southern California.

Games will be played in Indian Wells, longtime host of tournaments for the world’s best tennis players.

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