Pickleball gaining popularity
If you hang out anywhere near the Mills Court tennis courts these days, you’ll see a little-known game being played.
It’s called pickleball, and it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Since its inception in 1965, more than 100,000 players have taken up the sport.
Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and ping-pong. The sport is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to a tennis net, but it’s mounted 2 inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle and a polymer wiffle ball on a 44-foot by 20-foot court.
The game got its start and name from Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington, and five of his friends. The sport was named after Pritchard’s dog, Pickles.
Carson City’s Gary Sheerin is one of several players who congregate every weekend at Mills Park.
“I used to play tennis, but it got to the point where I didn’t care for it,” said Sheerin, who is an avid golfer. “I saw people play and it looked like fun. Arizona is huge for pickleball. There are probably 60 venues in the state.
“Mills Park seemed like a logical place to have one. I called the Parks Department and asked if they would be willing to come to Court 4 and paint stripes that could be superimposed on the tennis courts. I told him I would pay to have it done. We’re trying to get more people interested in the game.”
Sheerin’s request was about a year ago, according to Roger Moellendorf, who leads the Parks & Recreation Department.
“He (Sheerin) gave us a call recently and said pickleball was really going (strong),” Moellendorf said. “He requested that we do a second court, which we will be doing. It’s a first-come, first-served for court space between tennis players and pickleball players at Mills.”
Could there be more pickleball courts in Carson’s future?
“We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Moellendorf said. “We want to see if there is going to be support and interest.”
With the economic downturn, Moellendorf said, it’s unlikely that there would be pickleball-only courts constructed anywhere in Carson.
What’s not to like about the sport? It’s fast, people of all ages and sizes can play it, and you get a pretty good workout.
“It’s so much fun,” said Paula Tlachac, who splits her time between Carson and Surprise, Ariz. “It’s like ping-pong and tennis. At least in this game, you don’t have to run so far. It’s a very quick game. You play in a smaller area, and you can play singles or doubles.
“My sister has been living down there for five or six years. She took us out there and we love it. That’s where we learned it. The game is so much fun.”
Jim Harper said he was attracted to the game the first time hwe saw it played. He said that he hasn’t picked up a golf club since he started playing pickleball.
“It (pickleball) is a lot easier to play and a lot less frustrating,” said Harper, who is spending the summer in Oregon. “You get a reasonable amount of exercise.
“A good friend of mine is an ambassador for the game. He drug me out one day and we played. The day before, we had played golf together. I haven’t picked up a golf club since. I was hooked.”
Harper, who has been playing between three and four years, was approached by a friend who wanted him to be his doubles partner at a tournament.
“I told him I’d only been playing six weeks,” Harper said. “He said he needed to get a partner or have to forfeit. He and I wound up taking the gold medal in our division.”
Another reason Harper likes the game is that it’s less expensive, especially compared to golf. Harper said that paddles run between $50 and $75. The balls used are similar to the wiffle balls that kids play with now, save for the fact that the holes are different shapes and sizes, and located in different parts of he ball.
The Rules of Pickleball
• The serve must be hit underhand, and each team must play their first shot off the bounce. After the ball has bounced once on each side, then both teams can either volley or play it off the bounce. This eliminates the serve-and-volley advantage and prolongs rallies.
• The non-volley zone is the 7-foot zone on both sides of the net. No volleying is permitted within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from within the zone. When volleying the ball, the player may not step on or over the line. The non-volley zone is sometimes referred to as “the kitchen.”
• Both players on the serving team are allowed to serve, and a team can score points only when serving. A game is played to 11 points and a team must win by two points. The player must serve with both feet behind the baseline. The serve is made underhand. The paddle must contact the ball below the waist. The serve is made diagonally cross-court and must clear the no-volley zone. Only one serve attempt is allowed except in the event of a let (ball touches the net on a serve). When the serving team wins a point, the server moves to the other side of the serving team’s court. If the serve rotation is done properly, the serving team’s score will always be even when the player that started the game on the right side and odd when that player is on the left side.
Source: usapa.org/official rules
Baseline: The line at the back of a pickleball court (22 feet from the net).
Centerline: The line bisecting the service courts that extends from one side to the other.
Cross-court: The opponent’s court diagonally opposite yours.
Dink: A dink is a soft shot made with the paddle face open, and hit so that it just clears the net.
Poach: In doubles, to cross over into your partner’s area to play a ball.
Foot-fault: When ones foot enters the non-volley zone.
Non-volley zone: A 7-foot area adjacent to the net within which you may not volley the ball. The non-volley zone usually includes all lines around
Half-volley: A type of hit where the player hits it immediately after it has bounced, in an almost scoop-like fashion.