What is Pickleball?
We’re sure you’ve heard about a new sport called Pickleball, but what is it exactly…? Basically, it’s a paddle sport that combines various elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. You play on a small court (compared to tennis) with a slightly modified tennis net. Players use solid-faced paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball over the net. Just as tennis, it can be played as singles or doubles.
Read more related news and articles in our Pickleball blog.
Brief History of Pickleball
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The game was originally named “pickle ball” because Pritchard’s wife, Joan, thought it was a “hybrid” of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis. The name was later shortened to “pickleball” in 1969.
Pickleball quickly gained popularity in the Pacific Northwest and spread to other parts of the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. The USA Pickleball Association (USPA) was formed in 1981 to promote and develop the sport.
In the 1990s, pickleball began to grow in popularity internationally. The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was formed in 1993 to oversee the sport worldwide.
Today, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with the majority of the players in the U.S.
The rules of pickleball are relatively simple. Here are some of the basic rules:
- The game is played to 11 points, win by two points.
- Serving must be done underhand from behind the baseline.
- The ball must bounce once on each side of the net before a volley can be taken.
- Players cannot stand in the “kitchen” (the 7-foot area on either side of the net) and volley the ball.
- Faults – A fault is an error that results in the loss of a point. Some common faults include hitting the ball out of bounds, hitting the net, and volleying in the kitchen.
- In doubles, partners must hit the ball alternately.
- Third Serve – If a team fails to return the serve after two attempts, the other team wins the point.
- “Let” – A let is a situation where the point is replayed. Lets are usually called for things like the ball hitting the net or a player being obstructed.
Pickleball Court Layout
A pickleball court is the same size as a badminton court, with dimensions of 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. The net is set at a height of 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”).
Rackets and Equipment
Pickleball rackets are solid-faced paddles made of wood, graphite, or composite materials. They are typically smaller and lighter than tennis rackets.
As an example, check out our review of the Joola Method CTS 12 racket shown in the image.
“Pickleball balls” are smaller and lighter than tennis balls, and they have holes in them to reduce their speed.
How Similar is Pickleball to Tennis?
Pickleball and tennis are similar in some ways but these two sports reveal distinct differences in their equipment, rules, and overall gameplay. Below are some differences between Pickleball and Tennis:
- Pickleball is played with a perforated plastic ball, while tennis is played with a rubber ball. This makes pickleball slower and easier to control than tennis.
- Tennis courts are significantly larger than pickleball courts. This size difference influences the pace and style of play.
- Pickleball rackets are solid-faced, while tennis rackets have strings. Among other things, this makes pickleball shots more predictable than tennis shots.
- Pickleball has a non-volley zone in front of the net, while tennis does not. This reduces the power of shots and makes it easier to return the ball.
Different Scoring System: Tennis scoring is based on a complex system of 15, 30, 40, and game, while pickleball is simpler, with games played up to 11 points.
To put it simple, we would say that tennis is a physically more demanding sport while pickleball is more accessible to players of all ages and skill levels.
There are a few basic strategies that can help you improve your pickleball game:
- Focus on placement. It really is a game of finesse, not power. Try to place your shots carefully to make them difficult for your opponent to return.
- Use the non-volley zone to your advantage. The no-volley zone can be a great place to slow down the game and make your opponent think.
- Play with a partner who has a similar skill level to you. This is a sport that is supposed to be really fun and enjoyable and this tip will just make the game more enjoyable and competitive.
Watch below when we’re playing Pickleball against the doubles pickleball champions in Malta.
Benefits of Playing Pickleball
There are many benefits to playing pickleball, both physical and mental. What we like a lot about it is that it’s quick and easy to pick up a game of Pickleball and get started.
From a physical standpoint, it contributes to improved hand-eye coordination, which is essential for a lot of everyday activities. Playing pickleball enhances agility, muscle strength, coordination and overall function. It can also enhance cognitive performance and function.
In addition, a recent study published in the journal Leisure Studies discovered that playing pickleball is linked to lower levels of depression in older adults.
Popularity in the USA
Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there were over 4.8 million pickleball players in the United States in 2022. This is up from just 2.9 million players in 2018.
Pickleball is particularly popular among older adults. In fact, the average age of a pickleball player is 61. This is likely due to the fact that pickleball is a low-impact sport that is easy to learn and play.
The popularity of pickleball is being driven by several factors. These include:
- The sport’s ease of learning and play. Pickleball is a relatively easy sport to learn, even for people who have never played racquet sports before. This makes it a great option for people of all ages and skill levels.
- The sport’s social aspect. Pickleball is a very social sport. Players of all skill levels are welcome to join in, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and make friends.
- The growing number of pickleball courts and facilities. There are now pickleball courts and facilities in almost every community in the United States. This makes it easy for people to find a place to play.
Until recently there is not much sports betting activity going on with Pickleball matches. However, as of earlier in 2023, popular US sportsbook FanDuel became became the first major bookmaker in the US to offer legal betting on pickleball matches and tournaments.
At FanDuel, you’ll have access to odds on pickleball tournaments on the Professional Pickleball Association Tour (PPAT), the “elite tour” for professional pickleball according to themlseves.
This is only the first sportsbook (of many to come?) following after The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) signed a long term deal with Genius Sports to help promote the sport and provide real-time data stream to selected sportsbooks.
Punters can wager on match winner, correct match scores, total points (over/under) as well as H2H bets. This is live in following states for now: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington,and Wyoming.
The future will show if we’ll see Pickleball betting odds being added to the main selections at the best betting sites.
Future of Pickleball
Pickleball is expected to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years., as the sport is relatively new and still has a lot of untapped potential. We can already see new courts being added in several European and Asian countries.
The USA Pickleball Association (USPA) is working to grow the sport by increasing participation at all levels, from recreational play to professional competition. The USPA is also working to develop new rules and guidelines for the sport.
In addition, the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) is working to promote the sport internationally. The IFP is organizing international tournaments and events to help grow the sport in new markets.
With its growing popularity and international reach, pickleball is poised to become one of the most popular sports in the world.