Fresno – The first rule of pickleball is that it has nothing to do with pickles. But its funny name hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the fastest growing sports in America.
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton. Players use oversize Ping-Pong paddles to hit the wiffle-like ball over the net on a surface about the third of the size of a tennis court. Rules to the game are similar to tennis, but with a slightly shorter net.
"It's fun, it's competitive, where you're challenging yourself, but the skill level is much less," said Mike Jizmejian, pickleball coach at Sunnyside Health and Tennis in Fresno, Calif.
The sport was created in 1965 off the coast of Seattle. The name Pickleball came from the founder’s cocker spaniel named “Pickles,” who used to chase balls around and then hide them in bushes.
The game has especially gained popularity among people over the age of 50 because the low-impact sport is less strenuous on the joints since it’s played on a smaller court.
"You don't run as much. You get some same hand action, the same foot work, the same thought process, but you just don't run as much so it's easier on your body,” said Ken Robison, who picked up the game two years ago.
States with large retirement communities like Florida and Arizona have become pickleball hotspots. “The Villages” in Florida, a large retirement community with more than 100 pickleball courts, has been called the "Mecca of Pickleball." Over in Arizona, addict Ken Engle has no problem finding a partner.
“There’s 5,000 registered players within one hour so there’s no problem finding a match in Arizona,” Ken Engle said.
Engle plays six days a week for about 3 hours. He has played in tournaments hosted by the USA Pickleball Association (yes, there is one), where people from all around the world can enjoy the sport together. The game is also featured at the Huntsman World Senior Games (yes, those exist as well) in Utah.
"I think it's pretty easy to learn and once you do learn it you find that it's not quite as strenuous as other sports and you can play for a couple of hours and not get as tired as other sports,” said Engle.
As for the impact on your wallet, the game is less expensive than tennis since the equipment is cheaper. A pickleball paddle can cost around $20-70 and a pickleball can cost just a couple of dollars.
"It's a lot of fun, it's easy to learn, it's a great social game and people of all ages can play from young to old,” said pickleball player Frank Tamura.