As the summer approaches, parents are scrounging for ideas and programs to keep their kids busy. Despite the increasing number of available opportunities in recent years, today’s parents still dread to hear those inevitable words: “I’m bored.”
Almost 60 years ago, three fathers found themselves in a similar situation to many parents today. Tired of hearing their children complain they are bored, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum got creative. They created a makeshift game using ping pong paddles, a perforated plastic ball, and an old badminton court.
Over the years, the improvised game developed into a real sport called Pickleball. According to the USA Pickleball Association, 4.8 million people in the US play the game and it is the fastest growing sport in the country. Just in the last two years, there has been a 39.9% participation increase, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Within the US and Canada, there are an estimated 9,500 pickleball venues. The International Federation of Pickleball reports that the game is played in 70 countries. Tournaments are featured on many television stations, including Fox Sports, ESPN+, and CBS Sports.
So, what exactly is Pickleball?
The up-and-coming sport is often associated with tennis, ping pong, and badminton. Many choose to play in indoor or outdoor tennis courts, lowering the nets and implementing additional boundary lines. Players hit a perforated ball over the net using paddles, with the goal of preventing the opponent from hitting the ball back.
Because of its simple rules and accessible equipment, the game has gained popularity. Older folks have taken a particular interest in the sport, as moving around in a small court is easier than having to run across a large court or field in other sports. The pandemic powered its popularity as well, since players are distanced at all times.
Contrary to popular belief, the sport does not include any pickles and it is unknown how the game inherited its name. Some speculate it was named for Joel Pritchard’s family dog, who was called Pickles. Pickles enjoyed running away with the plastic ball, and the family referred to it as “Pickles’ ball” – similar to today’s name, Pickleball.
Regardless of its origins, Pickleball is undoubtedly a fun sport for people of all ages. If you think introducing this game to your kids may help eliminate some boredom this summer, give it a whirl!