Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, especially if you’re an older adult. In addition to maintaining your balance and strength, regular exercise can prevent or delay many common diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia. Social sports are also a great way to stay connected with your community, which reduces feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Pickleball, the fun new hybrid sport that’s taking North America by storm, is designed to help people of all ages enjoy the benefits mentioned above. Pickleball is accessible to anyone, whether they’re nine or ninety, and it combines the comfort of low-impact exercise with the calorie-burning, muscle-building power of a solid cardio workout. Here’s how it works:
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong that was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. The sport was created by three dads - Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum - who were looking for a new way to keep their kids entertained over summer vacation. Though the origin of the name “pickleball” is uncertain, most people believe the sport is named after Joel Pritchard’s dog, Pickles.
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong that was invented in 1965
Though pickleball has been around for over half a century, it only rose to prominence during the last decade, after retirees in the southern United States realized it was ideally suited to older athletes. The balls used during pickleball are hollow and perforated with holes, so players don’t need to be keen to excel at pickleball (unlike tennis). Instead, they rely on planning and strategy to win the game. Pickleball also borrows ping pong’s “close to the court” playstyle, so players don’t need to reach high over their heads during the game. This sport alleviates strain on the joints, so pickleball players don’t suffer from tennis elbow, and many people can play the game with limited upper-body mobility.
Pickleball’s incredible versatility has helped the sport catch on with people of all ages: Though older adults can be credited with starting the pickleball craze, today, adults under 60 are picking up the game in record numbers. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), pickleball has seen a 650 percent increase in popularity over the last six years, with much of that growth being driven by younger adults. In Canada alone, there are over 60,000 pickleball players.
How to Play Pickleball: Pickleball Rules, Equipment, and Techniques
Setting up a game of pickleball is as easy as purchasing the right equipment and finding your nearest pickleball or tennis court. Toronto-area residents have several facilities to choose from, as covered in this useful guide by BlogTO. If you’re outside the Toronto area and your local tennis facility doesn’t have a pickleball court, you can lower the existing tennis net to 34 inches at the center and use tape to define the play area, as long as that’s okay with the court owner. (Alternately, you can purchase a pickleball net and set up a court in your basement or backyard, if you have enough space.) Before you start playing pickleball, you’ll need to pick up a pickleball paddle and either indoor balls or outdoor balls, depending on where you plan to play.
Basic Pickleball Rules:
Pickleball games are usually played up to a score of 11 points, and only the serving team may score points. (Usually, it’s the server’s job to call out points.) To win the game, one side must have at least two more points than the other team, otherwise, the match is a tie.
Points are scored any time the opposing team faults: That is, when they fail to return the ball, hit the ball out of bounds, or hit the net, similar to tennis. Some essential differences distinguish pickleball from tennis; however: First and foremost, pickleball players need to be aware of the “no volley” zone, which is a 7-foot wide space in front of the net on both sides of the net. Players can’t step into this zone while volleying (hitting the ball from the air); doing so is considered a fault. This rule is put in place to keep the ball low and prevent injuries to players.
Pickleball games are usually played up to a score of 11 points
During pickleball, serves are always performed underhand from behind the baseline; the server must keep both feet from touching the line at all times. Serves are performed diagonally, and cross-court (meaning they must land in the opposite diagonal court), and first serves always come from the right side of the court. When receiving a serve, the opposing team must remain in place and wait for the ball to bounce twice before they return it; they can’t move into the no-volley zone and “smash” the ball over the net. When the ball is returned, it must bounce twice before the serving team can hit it. After that, the “two bounce rule” no longer applies - players may hit the ball in the air, as long as they stay behind the no-volley zone.
If you’re new to pickleball or playing with young children, you’ll want to keep the rules as basic as possible while you learn the game. Above all else, pickleball is meant to be a fun family sport, so you should feel free to slightly modify the game to suit your needs if you’re playing casually. (Remember to respect the no-volley zone, especially if you’re playing with kids or someone who’s physically frail because it’s there to keep everyone safe.) If you’re interested in league play or want a challenge, however, you should consult a detailed guide to the rules of pickleball.
Beginner Pickleball Techniques:
To improve your pickleball game, most experts recommend learning how to make “dink shots” early on. Instead of trying for “power shots” that begin near the baseline of the court, get close to the no volley line and gently tap the ball, sending it into the opposing team’s no volley zone. The dink shot is useful because it often causes the opposing player to rush the net and hit the ball hard, either sending it into the net or far out of bounds.
If you’re playing with a partner, you should also be careful to keep your movements in sync with your teammate. Imagine there’s an eight-foot length of rope connecting you both: When your partner takes a step back, forward, or to the side, you must take a step in the same direction at the same time. Keeping your movements in sync like this will prevent gaps from forming on your side of the court, giving your opponents fewer opportunities to score.
Finally, remember not to be intimidated by the no volley line - when you play, try to stay close to this line, without stepping into it when you volley. Though playing close to the no volley line feels risky, it’s the most influential position to be in, because it allows you to return the ball quickly and catch your opponent off-guard. Standing near the no volley line also puts you in a high position to defend against dink shots.
Pickleball is very easy to pick up, but genuinely mastering this game requires time, practice, and guidance from experienced players. If you need help purchasing the right pickleball equipment, finding a pickleball court near you, or understanding the rules of pickleball, feel free to reach out to the friendly team at HiSports in Canada. We look forward to sharing our passion for pickleball with you as you discover this uniquely fun, accessible sport.