116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Have you ever been bored on a beautiful summer day, wasting half your day trying to figure out something to do?
Most of us can probably answer “yes” to that question.
Now, have you ever been so bored you decided to invent a new outdoor, family-friendly game? Probably many fewer hands would go up in response to that question.
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 percent in 2020.
Here’s some information about this popular game, which is gaining steam in Cedar Rapids and all of Eastern Iowa.
Origins of pickleball
In the summer of 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Wash., 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, was complaining to his dad that there wasn’t anything to do. His father told him when he was young he would make up games to play, so Frank responded by saying “Oh really? Then why don’t you go make up a game?”
Joel took that as a challenge, gathering materials like table tennis paddles, wiffleballs and a badminton net. Eventually, after creating more reliable, sturdier paddles and some simple rules, Pritchard had established a new game.
The name “pickleball” was given by Joel’s wife, Joan, who was referring to “pickle boats” that non-starting rowers would use to race for fun during rowing events.
Two years later, the first official pickleball court was constructed. A decade later, pickleball tournaments were being held. Interestingly enough, most participants in these tournaments were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball at the time.
In 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed, and by 1990 the game was being played in all 50 states. By 2021, the USAPA had more than 53,000 members, and is continuing to grow today.
How to play pickleball
Pickleball is very similar to other racket sports like tennis, table tennis and badminton.
It’s become a very popular game for older folks looking for a fun way to get exercise and fresh air. That said, pickleball can be a very competitive game, as well, depending on the players’ skill levels.
In terms of the equipment needed to play, it’s not too complicated. All you need is a pickleball paddle (smaller than a tennis racket and larger than a table tennis paddle), a pickleball (Wiffle ball/plastic ball with holes), a net and a court to play on.
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 could work.
The rules of pickleball are relatively simple and can be learned quickly. Like in tennis, you can play singles (1 vs. 1) or doubles (2 vs. 2). The dimensions of an official pickleball court are 44 feet x 20 feet, the same as those of a badminton court.
The game can be played indoors or outdoors, and the scoring is similar to table tennis, with 11 or 15 typically being the target score. When you serve, you must hit the ball underhand and cross-court. Just like with tennis and table tennis, the ball can’t bounce more than once on your side before you return.
On an official pickleball court, there’s an area along the net on each side called the “no-volley zone,” meaning you have to let the ball bounce before returning it.
Give pickleball a try
Now that you know more about the origins of pickleball and how it’s 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 grandpa when I was younger, and my brother and I love to play at his house whenever we get the chance.
It may not be an official court, but it has that homemade feel to it that makes it even more special (wooden paddles, cracks in the driveway, tying one end of the net to a basketball hoop). If you have the equipment necessary, you can play almost anywhere.