Pickleball 101: History, rules of the sport gain popularity in Iowa


Pickleball is a game for all ages, a great way to exercise and can be played indoors or outdoors. (Associated Press)

Have you ever been bored on a beautiful summer day, wasting half your day trying to find something to do?

The LISCO pickleball courts in Heritage Park in Fairfield are a popular venue. (Submitted)

Most of us can probably answer “yes” to this question.

Now, have you ever been so bored that you decided to invent a new outdoor game for the whole family? Probably far fewer hands would go up in response to that question.

You don’t need an official court to play pickleball. You can play on any flat surface and use any type of “net”, like these two in Miami. (Associated Press)

Well, that’s exactly how the game of pickleball was invented, and it’s now the fastest growing sport in the United States. According to the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), the sport of pickleball grew by 21.3% in 2020.

Here’s some information about this popular game, which is gaining momentum in Cedar Rapids and throughout eastern Iowa.

Pickleball is a hybrid of tennis, badminton and table tennis. (Associated Press)

Origins of pickleball

In the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Joel Pritchard, along with his buddies Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, invented the game of pickleball.

Pritchard’s son Frank, who was 13 at the time, complained to his father that there was nothing to be done. His dad told him when he was young that he made up games to play, so Frank responded by saying “Oh really? So why don’t you go invent a game? »

Joel took it as a challenge, gathering materials like table tennis paddles, wiffleballs and a badminton net. Eventually, after creating more reliable, sturdier paddles and a few simple rules, Pritchard had established a new game.

The name “pickleball” was given by Joel’s wife, Joan, which referred to the “pickle boats” that non-starter rowers used to race for fun in rowing events.

Two years later, the first official pickleball court was built. A decade later, pickleball tournaments were taking place. Interestingly enough, most of the participants in these tournaments were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball at the time.

In 1984 the American Pickleball Amateur Association (USAPA) was formed, and by 1990 the game was being played in all 50 states. In 2021, USAPA had over 53,000 members and continues to grow today.

How to play pickleball

Pickleball is very similar to other racquet sports like tennis, table tennis, and badminton.

It’s become a hugely popular game for older people looking for a fun way to exercise and get some fresh air. That said, pickleball can also be a very competitive game, depending on the skill level of the players.

In terms of the equipment needed to play, it’s not too complicated. All you need is a pickleball racket (smaller than a tennis racket and bigger than a table tennis racket), a pickleball (Wiffle ball/plastic ball with holes), a net and a field to play.

Even if you don’t have access to an official pickleball court, that doesn’t mean you can’t play. If you have a nice flat driveway, for example, that might work.

The rules of pickleball are relatively simple and can be learned quickly. As in tennis, you can play singles (1 against 1) or doubles (2 against 2). The dimensions of an official pickleball court are 44 feet x 20 feet, the same as a badminton court.

The game can be played indoors or outdoors, and scoring is similar to table tennis, with 11 or 15 usually being the target score. When you serve, you must hit the ball from underhand and cross the court. Just like in tennis and table tennis, the ball cannot bounce more than once on your side before you come back.

On an official pickleball court, there is an area along the net on each side called the “non-volley zone”, which means you have to let the ball bounce before returning it.

Try pickleball

Now that you know more about the origins of pickleball and how it is played, why not give it a try?

You don’t need to join a league or find an official pickleball court to play.

I was introduced to the game by my grandfather when I was younger, and my brother and I enjoy playing at his house whenever we get the chance.

It may not be an official court, but it has that home feel that makes it even more special (wooden paddles, cracks in the fairway, tying one end of the net to a basketball hoop). If you have the necessary equipment, you can play almost anywhere.

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