What happens when you mix tennis, volleyball, and badminton?
Turns out you get the fastest-growing sport in the country.
The name of the game is pickleball. To answer the inevitable question, the colourful name comes from the notion of a pickle boat. Just as a pickle boat crew is composed of leftover oarsmen from other boats, pickle ball borrows bits and pieces from other net sports to form something totally new.
Intrigued? Here’s why this fast-paced sport is growing even faster.
One hand grips a paddle; the other a bright, yellow ball. Your opponent stands opposite on the far side of the net. The thwack of your underhand serve sends the ball hurtling over the net and across the 44’-long court.
If it bounces twice within boundaries, the play ends, and you earn a point. If your rival retaliates, it’s game-on!
That’s the essence of pickleball. Opposing players (either individuals or partners) volley a ball back and forth over the net using paddles. The paddle resembles an oversized ping pong paddle. The ball is about the size of a wiffle ball, but heavier, and with round rather than oblong holes.
Pickleball originates in the northwestern United States. The game earned a following in Canada after sports-loving snowbirds brought it home in the 1960s. Now, pickleball boasts an estimated 60,000 players in Canada and over 200,000 south of the border.
Why is pickleball so popular? Because it’s easy to learn, fun to play, and surprisingly competitive. But what sets pickleball apart from other net sports is that it’s accessible.
Pickleball is known as a sport for everyone. It does demand quick reflexes, but pickleball is far less strenuous than volleyball. The playing field is smaller than a tennis court, and the net is lower than that of badminton. These qualities make pickleball accessible to people of all ages, including those who are on the better side of 65.
Though it’s often considered a casual sport, pickleball does have rules and standards. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) is Pickleball’s lawmaker; Pickleball Canada publishes the rules for Canadian audiences.
We won’t go down the whole list, but for starters, you should know about two of the most important rules: the two-bounce rule and the non-volley zone.
The two-bounce rule means both sides must let the ball bounce in their end of the court at least once before returning it. But once the ball has bounced on each side of the court, it’s open season, and players can smash the ball down on their opponent mid-air.
However, there’s a caveat: the 7x20’ rectangle on either side of the net is the non-volley zone. Hitting the ball while inside this boundary is a fault in pickleball. However, players can step into the zone to make a groundstroke (after the ball has bounced.)
These rules are meant to give the game a more measured pace. Pickleball isn’t as aggressive as tennis or as physically taxing as volleyball. But don’t be fooled: it can be just as competitive!
Today, Pickleball is more popular than ever. Cities across Canada are beginning to build pickleball courts, especially in areas with a high population of seniors. You may be surprised to find a pickleball league in your own backyard.
Can’t find a local pickleball court? It is possible to convert tennis courts to pickleball courts. Badminton courts, which are the same size as pickleball courts, are another option.
And, like tennis and badminton, pickleball can easily become an all-season sport with the help of an air dome. If the trend continues, it may not be long before we build Canada’s first-ever speciality pickleball dome!