Pickled? — as in sloppy drunk? Well, no, not really.
Pickled? — as in pickleball? Yeah, OK, now we’re talking.
We have six pickleball courts at the South Yuba Club, and the game is extremely popular with members; in fact, it is the fastest growing sport in the county. But I must confess that I have not tried it … yet.
A few buddies (Ray Vanover, Tim Bunch, Tim Feller, Bret Stone) have been urging me to try pickleball with such kind and supportive words like — “Hey, Phil, you will really like it.” Or with the friendly macho taunts like “Hey, Phil, you scared to try it?” and “Hey, man, you lose your juju?” OK, I am 82 years old, but I can’t let those young whippersnappers go unchallenged. “Suit up, boys.”
Pickleball is a racket/paddle sport combining the elements of several other sports. The game is played on a court like badminton, but with solid paddles and a perforated, plastic ball.
The game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three guys (Joel, Bill, and Barney) who came home from playing golf one day and sat around with nothing to do. There was an old badminton court in the backyard, but they couldn’t find a shuttlecock or badminton rackets. So, they improvised with a wiffle ball and some ping pong rackets. Voila, the very first game of Pickleball was played.
The net was originally set at badminton height but was eventually lowed to 34 inches at the center because the game was more exciting at that height, and it started to resemble tennis.
The game was called “pickleball” because it reminded them of the “pickle boat” in crew where the oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. There is also the story that pickleball was named after the family dog, Pickles. Nice story, but the truth is that the dog was named Pickles after the game was created.
The court is smaller than in tennis, so you don’t have to run like you do in tennis. Your opponents are just across the net, so you are close together and it is very social. The ball moves slower than tennis, but the game relies on balance, agility, good reflexes, and hand-eye coordination — all without excessive strains on the body.
Hence you get a workout while having laughs, banter, and good-natured fun. Because of the smaller court and slower ball, the game is suited to all ages. The big, burly 20-year-old guy can easily lose to the smart and crafty grandma. Sometimes she can take him three games to one and he wonders “Whoa, what kind of water does granny drink?”
John Hendrickson is the South Yuba Club tennis and pickleball pro, and he is organizing a big pickleball event at the club for members and the public with no charge from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. Saturday, April 23. This is a great social event with tournaments, open play, barbecue, and a chance to learn more about pickleball. Mark it on your calendar.
Given my “granny comment,” don’t be fooled about how complex pickleball can be. John says, “Pickleball is more strategic and faster than tennis.” He says he would rather play pickleball because, “it is more fun than tennis.”
Don’t be afraid to come out and try the game. Most core players today are over 65 years old, but the game is attracting younger players and there is a growing group of professional players in their teens and 20s. Six million people are playing today, which is more than double just five years ago. Literally everyone can play this game. I think it will become a global sport.
I feel people should be looking for avenues to have some fun in our currently stressful world of tribal politics, fear, misinformation and sadly now — war. Yes, the world is sometimes a mess, but never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.
Or, as Walt Whitman once said, “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to answer questions or respond to comments. He can be reached at email@example.com