The Pickleball Craze

You may have noticed tennis courts around your community looking a little different recently with more nets and additional lines. Indeed, indoor and outdoor courts across the country are being converted to accommodate pickleball–one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

Although it was created in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, the game has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years. In fact, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the number of places to play the sport has more than doubled since 2010 with now over 4000 locations available to enjoy the game.

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong all in one sport. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes, similar to a wiffle ball. And while pickleball may have started with seniors who began playing the sport in retirement communities, it is now enjoyed by everyone, from children as young as 9 to seniors in their 90s. USAPA notes pickleball has grown due to its popularity at community centers, physical education classes at schools, YMCA’s, and senior living facilities. Beyond the U.S., the sport is growing in popularity with governing bodies in Canada and India.


Benefits of Exercise

Pickleball is a great form of exercise for seniors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) did a small study in 2017 that showed playing pickleball is a key leisure pursuit that contributes to the well-being of older adults. Overall, it is important for seniors to participate in some form of exercise on a daily basis. In fact, according to the NIH regular exercise for older adults can:

  • Help you to maintain your independence and enjoy life.
  • Reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities as you age.
  • Be an effective treatment for many chronic conditions including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, balance problems and low bone density.
  • Decrease your risk for falls.
  • Increase muscle strength and stamina.
  • Increase flexibility.
  • Possibly lower the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
  • Reduce insomnia and help you sleep better.
  • Increase your overall mood and outlook on life since exercise releases feel-good endorphins from the brain.


Why Pickleball?

According to the USAPA, pickleball was created in the mid 1960s in Washington by then state congressman Joel Pritchard. After a round of golf with friend Bill Bell, the pair went back to Pritchard’s house and found their families sitting around with nothing to do. The two dads improvised a game on an old badminton court using ping-pong paddles. The next weekend a friend (Barney McCallum) joined them and the three men eventually created rules for the new game. Their original purpose was to provide a sport which the entire family could play and enjoy together. There is some discrepancy as to how it got its name. The sport reminded Joan Pritchard of a pickle boat in crew. However, Barney McCallum said the game was named after the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who would chase after a ball.

Seniors are drawn to pickleball for many reasons including:

  • It’s a sport that is easy to learn and play.
  • Since four pickleball courts fit in one standard size tennis court, there is less running in the game. This means less stress on joints and a reduced risk of falls and injury.
  • Unlike tennis, you don’t need a power shot in pickleball to be competitive.
  • Although players cover a smaller distance, pickleball is still a very good workout since you cover a lot of steps during play. An adult weighing an average size can burn about 250 calories during a 30-minute game. You can burn even more calories with a more aggressive match.
  • Games are quick and short and a player can go in and out of play more quickly allowing for more rest breaks.
  • While the majority of pickleball players are over the age of 55, it is a game you can play with friends and family decades younger or older.
  • The sport provides equality between players no matter the age. Older participants may not have the advantage of speed or movement, but can still play competitively using strategy.
  • The sport is very social and gives everyone the opportunity to meet new people since you rotate partners every game.
  • Pickleball is fun!


To find out more about pickleball and to find a place to play in your area click on the link below.



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