By Hallie Hutchins, Parks & Recreation Marketing Assistant
Is it tennis? Badminton? Ping-Pong?
No, it’s pickleball, a racquet sport that combines elements of those sports. Singles or doubles players use solid paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball – similar to a wiffle ball – over a net.
Pickleball made its debut more than 50 years ago near Seattle when a pair of congressmen decided to make use of an old badminton court on Bainbridge Island. They didn’t have badminton rackets, so they improvised with ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball and lowered the net to 36 inches. The following weekend, a friend joined in, and they created rules.
The most popular theory about the sport’s name is that one of the founder’s dogs enjoyed chasing and running off with the wiffle balls. The dog’s name was Pickles.
The sport has gained popularity for many reasons. The simple rules make it fun and easy to play for all ages, but it also can be a challenging, fast-paced, and competitive game for more experienced players. Aging tennis players might also enjoy the lighter plastic balls and paddles, which are easier on the joints. The court is much smaller, too.
Serve, sequence, and scoring
Like tennis, the ball is served diagonally across the court and must land within its boundaries. However, the serve is made with an underhanded swing. The first serve on each side is made from the right-hand court. If a point is scored, then the server switches to the left side.
The first server continues serving until losing the serve. Points are scored only by the serving team, and the first side to reach 11 points with at least a two-point margin wins.
Bounce, non-volley, and faults
On a serve, the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before it’s returned. Then, both teams may volley the ball with or without a bounce. The seven-foot non-volley zone is popularly called “the kitchen” and keeps players from smashing the ball.
Rule violations create a fault. A fault by the receiving team gives the serving team a point. A fault by the serving team results in the loss of serve.
A fault happens if:
- The ball is hit into the net or out of bounds.
- The ball is volleyed before a bounce has occurred on both sides of the net.
- The ball is volleyed in the non-volley zone.
- The ball bounces twice between strikes.
- The net is touched by the player, their clothing or the paddle.
- The ball strikes a player or any permanent object before bouncing.
How to join the craze
If you’re at least 16 years old, you can learn to play or hone your skills through College Station Parks and Recreation’s intro pickleball program, which focuses on the foundations of scoring, stroke production and match play.
The classes are scheduled from 4:30-5:30 p.m. each Sunday from Sept. 23 through Oct. 28 at Bee Creek Park. You can register through Sept. 28 at rectrac.cstx.gov.
If you already know how to serve it up, the Lincoln Recreation Center offers season ($10) or day ($3) passes to those 16 and older to play in the new indoor gym. The schedule is Sept. 4-Dec. 13 (11 a.m.-1 p.m.), Sept. 5-Dec. 12 (6:30-9 p.m.), and Sept. 8-Nov. 17 (9 a.m.-noon).
If you prefer to play outdoors, Bee Creek Park offers two pickleball courts for practice or play on a first-come, first-served basis.
Join the craze today!
About the Blogger
Hallie Hutchins is in her fourth year as marketing staff assistant in the Parks & Recreation Department after graduating from Texas A&M in 2014 with a degree in sports management. She has previously worked with the Dallas Sidekicks professional soccer team and Texas Team Junior Golf. Originally from White Oak, Hallie also attended Kilgore College and was a member of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes dance team.
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