The Exercise Craze Everyone Is Talking About
Here's why you might want to jump on the bandwagon.
An empty nest move to a warm climate has me in a bit of a pickle. Pickleball, that is. Writing is my profession and my main hobby. Traditional sporty pastimes just haven’t been my thing. The constant referencing of “playing pickle” by nearly everyone I know piqued my interest in pickleball. That plus a desire to get out in a new city, meet people and be active. That sounds like an over-50 cliché — and that’s because it’s true.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. According to the USA Pickleball Association website, 3.3 million Americans play this hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors, singles or doubles and by all ages. The Economist has even taken notice and ran an article in January about the popularity of the sport, “Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America.” (When I’m choosing a new hobby, particularly a sport, I tend to turn to The Economist.)
There is no denying that pickleball is here to stay. It is social, easy to learn and fun, and the price of entry is very reasonable — Amazon has sets of 2 paddles, 2 pickleballs and a carrying case for about $60 from various vendors.
The good news about moving to a new state and wanting to connect with other people is that lots of other people are in the same boat — or in this case, pickle. My husband and I reserve the right to really embrace tennis or golf at some point, but for now, we like the relaxed and social vibe of pickleball. Like so many regional parks and rec centers all over the country, our neighborhood has converted several of its tennis courts to pickleball courts.
A pickleball court is the same size as a badminton court and uses a slightly modified tennis net. There is a pickleball ball specifically for indoor use, and one for outdoor use. Pro tip: Be sure to figure this out before you venture out for the first time. We were told by a more seasoned “pickler” that we were using an indoor ball in the great outdoors — rookie move! But that adjustment did result in our watching a few short tutorials that were helpful. A lot of older tennis players are transitioning to pickleball because you hit the ball with less force and the paddle and ball are lighter. Luckily my joints are in good shape from years of nonuse, and my old vacuuming injury (I played Pro Vacuum back in the day) to my shoulder has not been irritated at all.
We have found that the pickleball community is welcoming, experienced players are patient, and it is tons of fun. My husband and I try to play at least once on the weekends, and I play with a group of women during the week. Most of us have moved to the area within the last two years, and everyone is new to pickle. When it comes to what to wear, anything goes: I have seen tennis and golf attire or just shorts and a T-shirt. You won’t be escorted off the courts for not being in white or having a collared shirt.
If you are hesitant about taking up a new sport at a certain age, be aware that 64 percent of “Core” players (those who play eight or more times a year) are 55 years and older. So, if you are hearing lots of pickle talk, now you know there isn’t a home-canning craze. Check out the links below to find out what it’s all about.
To learn more about pickleball, go to the USA Pickleball Association website at usapickleball.org. To find a pickleball court near you, go to places2play.org.