If headed to Florida, better learn Pickleball

 If headed to Florida, better learn Pickleball

Actually, amend that headline. Pickleball is everywhere. In fact, its leading proponents claim it is the fastest growing sport in North America.though verifying that is not easy to do.

But there is no doubt that the sport, invented in 1965, is now hugely popular, particularly among retirees and in campgrounds, RV resorts, retirement communities and the like across Florida and the Sunbelt. Further, many snowbrird return to their northern homes each spring and bring their love of the game back with them.

Pickleball players keep the courts of the Silver Palms RV Resort on Okeechobee, FL busy from sunrise to sunset most every day.

There are no numerous places to play in all 50 states and there are regular tournaments sponsored by its own official organization, the USA Pickleball Association.

Here's one of their promotional videos showing how the game is played:

Pickleball leagues are everywhere.

On our RV trip to Florida and the Gulf Coast a couple of years ago, I was stunned to see it played – enthusiastically – at just abut every place we visited. So this week when a blog reader suggested a story about the sport, I thought it would be good to recyle this story from the archives.

In case you have never heard of it, pickleball is a racket sport in which two to four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a polymer perforated ball over a net.

A pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court and measures 20×44 feet. In pickleball, the same court is used for both singles and doubles play. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a 7-foot non-volley zone in front of the net (referred to as the “kitchen”). Courts can be constructed specifically for pickleball or they can be converted using existing tennis or badminton courts.

It was invented on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, WA. U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard and two pals,  Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, are credited for creating the game after their kids at the time became bored with their usual summertime activities .

Their kids apparently grew tired of the game. But the adults loved it, taught it to their friends and, as everybody aged, it kept growing and growing.

There are two stories about how the sport got its name. The most popular story has it that the Pritchard's dog, named Pickles, was always chasing after the wiffle ball when someone hit it out of bounds and then hiding with it in the bushes. Thus, for the game resumed, someone had to retrieve “Pickle's ball.”

But Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan, told one interviewer that the game reminded her of the pickle boat (in crew), where oarsmen are picked from the leftovers of the other boats. The game was subsequently named pickleball. The Pritchard's dog was actually named after the game, she said.

Whatever, pickleball is a way of life for many.

At an RV resort in Okeechobee, FL, where I took the above photo in this post, they had two courts that had people standing in line waiting to play from just after sunup till noon, and again just before sunup when the day's heat eased until it was too dark to play. The resort said pickleball was so popular that they were rushing to build more courts.

So there you go sports fans. Give it a try. I only had a chance to play a few minutes but from that brief experience, I can say it's pretty darn fun.


Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

1 Comment

  • 2 places to play in Destin; community center 3 days a week and at the Destin United Methodist church 5 days a week. They have beginner times and paddles to use. Both indoor.

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