From left to right: Wanda SKinner, Sherri Jones, Linda Inslee, and Kris Dail celebrate a good match.
It’s a beautiful 72 degrees on a glorious Friday morning in April. There is a slight breeze and a strange hollow plinking sound wafting through Community Park. All four pickleball courts are in full swing, with players ranging in age from their early 40s to late 70s. And that’s a big part of the charm of pickleball; it’s a sport equally suited for men and women, young and young-at-heart, the experienced and beginners.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, just a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington. Three dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum came up with the idea as a way to entertain their children who were becoming bored with their usual summertime activities. Today, more than 150,000 players enjoy pickleball around the globe, making it one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
Accounts of how the sport’s name originated differ. According to Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan, she started calling the game pickle ball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Prichards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it.
How it’s played
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and can be played as fast or slow as the players’ skill levels allow. It can be played both indoors or out, and is often played on retrofitted tennis courts that have been repainted to reflect a court size that is approximately one-third the size of a normal tennis court. Lake Jovita is fortunate to have four courts built especially for pickleball. It’s played with a special paddle and baseball-sized yellow whiffle ball. The same court is used for both doubles and singles play.
Players can either play a full game to 11 points, or they can play 10-minute rounds. If playing 10-minute rounds, they often switch courts and switch partners in round-robin fashion.
“It’s so much easier on our joints than tennis, and is suitable for anyone of any skill or fitness level,” said Loey Grader, Lake Jovita’s pickleball spokesperson.
Linda Inslee, who got pickleball going at Lake Jovita in 2014 and over at Saint Leo University prior to that, pointed to the camaraderie they all enjoy on the court.
“We’re having a great time out here, and getting a nice, easy workout in at the same time,” she said. “There are no age limits on this sport to remain competitive, like there is in tennis.”
The Next Big Thing?
Ask the USA Pickleball Association, and they’ll definitely tell you that pickleball is big, is growing, and is here to stay. There’s a pickelball Channel on YouTube that has 2,958 subscribers since March 14 of 2014 and a monthly Pickleball Magazine that goes out to tens of thousands of USAPA members. Sponsors of the official sporting association include Adidas, Nike, Aetna, Wilson, and Reebok—the same kinds of sponsors you find in major professional sports. Pickleball has local, regional, national and international tournaments and titleholders of all ages.
Want to join in on the fun?
Pickleball is in full swing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 to 10 a.m. at the courts located in the Community Park. It’s first come-first serve, but you can sign up online to reserve your place at www.holdmycourt.com/reserve2/lakejovita. For more information, give Loey Grader a call at 352-588-2784 or reach out to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.