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What is Pickleball & Why is it Popular?

Maybe you’ve seen people playing pickleball and wondered, what sport is that? Or you might've heard people talking about how popular it is and you want to know what the fuss is all about. Well, wonder no more.

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Below, we'll give you an introduction to the sport of Pickleball, explain why it's been gaining in popularity over the last few years, and some other interesting information you might want to know before hitting the court.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fun, easy-to-learn sport that people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy. The game is played on a badminton-size court with a net that is slightly lower than a tennis net. Paddles are used to hit a perforated plastic ball, similar to a wiffleball, over the net. You can play the game in singles or doubles, and the rules are similar to tennis.

The history of the sport holds that it was first developed on Bainbridge Island in 1965. It has since become a great way to exercise and spend time with family and friends. And, you can play the game both indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference or the weather.

Sometimes, local parks will have pickleball courts already set up. However, it’s as easy to prepare a court in your backyard by yourself.

One player serves the ball diagonally across the court to start the game. The ball must bounce before you hit it, and you can hit into the air or off the ground. Players can only hit the ball once before it goes over the net, and they can't cross the centerline of the court while the ball is in play. The first team to score 11 points wins the game.

Growing Popularity

Pickleball is a relatively new sport but, like games such as ping-pong, has quickly become one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Indeed, it has an estimated two million players nationwide. While anyone can enjoy pickleball, it is especially popular among the older demographic and retirement communities.

There are several reasons for its popularity, such as:

It's even possible that Pickleball will be considered as an Olympic sport someday. Here is an interesting quote from USAPickleball regarding growth, "... this 14.8% growth from 2020 to 2021 follows on the heels of 21.3% growth the previous year and contributes to a 11.5% average annual growth rate over the past 5 years."

Outdoor Pickleball vs Indoor Pickleball

There are two main ways to play pickleball: outdoors or indoors. While both versions have their benefits, there are some key differences you might want to brush up on before choosing which one to play.

Outdoor Pickleball

One key difference between outdoor and indoor pickleball is the type of surface on which the game is played. Outdoor pickleball is typically played on a hard surface made of asphalt or concrete (similar to a tennis court).

It’s important to take note of the surface because it can affect the way the ball moves and bounces. Since outdoor courts reside on natural surfaces, you may experience dips in the asphalt or a decline if on hilly ground. Asphalt or concrete can also make the ball roll faster or bounce higher.

Outdoor courts are also a bit larger than indoor courts. Given that, players need to be aware of this when positioning themselves on the court, especially when playing on an indoor court or switching back and forth frequently.

Indoor Pickleball

Indoor pickleball, as opposed to outdoor pickleball, is played on a smaller court with different boundaries. For example, the serving area is smaller, and players can only hit the ball into the front part of the court.

In addition, indoor pickleball courts have only single sidelines, meaning that if the ball goes out of bounds, that player automatically loses the point. As a result, indoor pickleball tends to be faster-paced and more intense than the outdoor version.

The court surface also differs from outdoor pickleball. For instance, indoor courts often have tile or hardwood floors, which can make the ball bounce differently than if on an outdoor court. Indoor courts also differ in net height, which usually sits higher than outdoor courts.

Another difference you can expect with indoor pickleball is the paddles. The indoor variants are usually made of graphite or fiberglass, which are lighter and easier to maneuver, making them ideal for a high-speed setting.

USAPA Rules Regarding Balls

If you're new to pickleball, you might be wondering what kind of ball you should use. The USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) is the governing body for the sport of pickleball in the United States. One of the things they do is make pickleball rules and regulations regarding the equipment used in games.

According to the USAPA, only certain ball types are allowed in sanctioned tournaments. The USAPA’s rules outline the approved ball type, design, and size.

Approved Ball Type

Three main types of balls are approved for use in pickleball: polymer, outer plastic/composite, and indoor. Polymer balls are designed for use on outdoor courts and are made of a durable material that can withstand the elements.

Outer plastic/composite balls are also designed for use on outdoor courts and are composed of denser plastic than polymer balls. Indoor balls are designed for use on indoor courts and are softer than polymer and outer plastic/composite balls.

Approved Ball Design

Pickleball balls are more sizable than tennis balls and have a more pronounced bounce. The balls are also made of soft plastic rather than hard rubber, making them easier on the hands and less likely to cause injuries.

In addition to the size and material, each ball should have 26 holes at a minimum and 46 at a maximum. You can find this information on the packaging when you purchase a set. The ball should also have the manufacturer’s logo somewhere embossed on the plastic. Except for this marking, the balls should be uniform in color and composition.

Approved Ball Size

The approved balls must have a diameter of 2.87 inches (7.3 cm), and they must be made of solid plastic or rubber. They also must weigh no more than 0.095 ounces (2.7 grams). If you're playing in a tournament that is not sanctioned by the USAPA, you may be able to use a different type. However, it's always best to check with the tournament director first.

A Dropped Ball

According to the USAPA, if a player drops their pickleball during the game, the other team will earn a point. This rule helps prevent players from intentionally dropping their pickleball to give themselves an advantage.

If both players agree, they can choose to replay the point; however, if one player does not want to, then the point will be awarded to the other team. Although it may seem like a simple rule, following this and other pickleball regulations ensure everyone has a fair and fun game.

Final Thoughts

Now you have the answer to the question, “what is pickleball?” It is a fun, fast-paced game that people of all ages can enjoy. Its popularity is rapidly growing, and for good reason. The game is easy to learn but provides a challenge for experienced players.

If you haven’t had the chance to try pickleball yet, we encourage you to give it a shot if you find our introduction insightful and enticing. And, if you are already a fan of the sport, keep on playing because it’s sure to become even more popular in years to come.

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