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Sun, Aug. 18

Column: One pickle of a game

What do you get when you cross the games of badminton, ping pong and tennis?

It's one of the fastest growing game in the country: Pickleball.

The game that began in the summer of 1965 by two desperate dads in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, Bill Bell and Joel Pritchard, to keep their kids entertained now has hundreds of courts being built and converted with thousands of new participants playing daily.

Why is it called Pickleball?

The story centers on their dog Pickles who kept stealing the ball, which he would grab and then hide.

Pickle's ball. Get it?

The game is played with a small plastic ball with holes in it, solid paddles no longer than 23 3/4 inches by 15 3/4 inches in width, and a relatively small, hard court surface that measures 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.

This game can be played by people of all ages.

It's not unusual to have a couple different generations square of against one another.

A net 34-inches high divides the players from one another.

Just like tennis, ping pong or badminton, there are singles or doubles competitions.

Players get one under-handed serve.

Similar to tennis, you start serving from the right side to the left service box, but unlike tennis, you only can earn points when you're serving.

Once you lose your serve, the serve goes back to your opponent, or if playing doubles, to your partner.

Matches normally consist of two or three games to 11 points.

You stay on one side of the court for one full game, switch sides for the next game, and if you split games, during the third game you switch sides when someone gets to six points.

Players have to win by two points.

There are two unusual rules worth mentioning:

No. 1 - There's a double-bounce rule.

Players must let the ball bounce once after the serve and the same is true for the receivers.

That's important because the server can't gain a big advantage by taking the net and winning an easy point with a volley.

No. 1 - There's a "No-Volley Zone" where a line is painted seven feet back from the net on each side.

Players are not allowed to encroach in this area and take the ball from the air.

In 1972 the rules of the game were copyrighted and the U.S. Pickleball Association became official. (Web site:

This game can be played almost anywhere there's a hard surface.

Just like many indoor tennis facilities in the 1980's and 90's were changed to become racquetball courts or weight- and aerobic rooms, some of those courts have newly added lines to accommodate this fast growing game.

There are now regional, state, sectional and national tournaments around the United States.

The game is played in other countries as well.

Our very own Pine Lakes sports two courts on their one tennis court with many of the sub-division residents partaking in a game.

While the game doesn't require quite as much agility as tennis, don't let that fool you.

This is a very competitive sport.

I challenge you to get out and find out for yourself just how fun this game is.

Maybe it's not right having a local tennis professional tout a game that's of another fold, but it does resemble tennis in many ways.

Players serve, hit ground strokes, volleys, return of serves, overhead smashes, power and touch shots and it consists of singles and doubles for all ages and abilities.

It's relatively inexpensive, takes a short period of time to play, gives you a great workout and is a social event as there is a wide range of people who play.

To take it a step further, I predict it will soon be taught at our colleges, a possible new high school sport, and it could even end up in the Olympics in a few years.

Who knows, maybe your son, daughter or grandchild will be the next Roger Federer/Steffi Graf in a sport that's definitely up and coming.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-445-1331 or


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