I’ve never been a sports-oriented person. I’m not sure if it’s the required physical exertion or the competitive aspect that doesn’t excite me, but I’d much rather spend my days pursuing a host of other activities.
So when my husband announced he wanted us to join a club and play pickleball, I was less than enthused.
Sure, I’d heard that pickleball was one of the fastest-growing sports in America and was being played by lots of older adults, but I really knew nothing about the details.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that requires two to four players using a solid paddle, hitting a Wiffle-type ball over a low net. Players use an underarm stroke to serve the ball and play it on a court that’s about one-quarter the size of a tennis court, so there’s less physical exertion.
The game was invented 50 years ago as a way for three dads to keep their kids occupied. The fathers creatively used materials they had around the house and yard to fashion the paddles, ball, net and court, and then made up the rules.
Fast-forward to today, where there are more than 3 million pickleball players in the U.S. and over 20,000 courts (both indoor and outdoor.) To keep up with the demand, parks and recreation facilities and country clubs are converting many tennis courts to pickleball courts.
The first day my husband dragged (did I just write that?) me to play, I brought the refreshments. I excel at “food” and thought this is the way I could contribute and be part of the team. Besides my husband and one woman, I knew no one in the group and was not prepared to embarrass myself by playing.
While the group was mighty appreciative of my Bloody Marys and croissants, they were not taking no for an answer when it came to me playing. By the next gathering I had purchased a pair of court sneakers and borrowed a paddle to give the game a try.
I was struck by the socialness of the group and the way they were especially considerate of a new player, orienting me to the rules and going easy on me until the day when I become more seasoned.
I was also happy to note that the games are short, playing only until one team scores 11 points, and that in between games players could sit out and let another person take their position while they rested.
The group we were playing with could not have been more friendly and inviting, and they made a beginner like me feel very welcome.
As we played more, I invested in a paddle and an official pickleball bag for us to carry the paddles and balls in, an investment of less than $200 if you counted my new court sneakers.
After a few more times of playing and meeting more players via the club’s pickleball socials, I discovered I was actually having fun.
If you have not played pickleball you might want to give it a try. You can find a list of public courts on conejovalleyguide.com, and if you belong to a tennis or country club they may have pickleball courts there, too.
Playing pickleball is good for me and may be good exercise for many other older adults. It allows me to work on my balance, agility, reflexes and hand-eye coordination without too much strain on my body.
Without a ton of physical exertion and friendly social competition, pickleball is a sport even I can get into.