During a recent trip to a local park, gym or community centre you’ve probably seen a group of people with paddles on courts looking like they’re having a lot of fun. They likely were playing pickleball, a sport that’s gaining in popularity and players across North America.
Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis. While its surge in popularity in recent years might make you think it’s new, it’s actually been around for decades. But when was pickleball invented? It was developed by a group of fathers in 1965 who were trying to amuse their bored children, while also finding a game that a family could play together. You might also be wondering why it’s called pickleball. Apparently one of the founding families had a dog named Pickles who would chase after the ball during games. And pickleball was born.
Racquet sports are popular but can be intimidating. And ‘traditional’ racquet sports don’t always offer something for everyone regardless of age, skill or fitness level. Enter pickleball!
What is Pickleball?
So pickleball isn’t new, but its popularity in recent years has certainly increased. A survey conducted by Pickleball Canada in 2022 found that there are an estimated 350,000 players across the country, a number which appears to have tripled in the last two years.
This timeline coincides with the pandemic, a time when everyone was adjusting to social distancing and a different way of meeting their physical and social needs. Many pickleball players found the sport when they were looking for a physical activity but also a safe social activity. Pickleball provides both.
Fun and socializing seem to be at the core of pickleball’s appeal, which really sets it apart from similar sports like tennis (good luck chatting while you’re huffing it across the baseline) or badminton (hard to get a laugh in when you’re diving to return a drop shot). The small court and proximity of your team member and/or opposition allows for a lot of conversation and banter during the game and between points. This is likely a big reason why pickleball has seen such impressive growth in popularity in recent years. This social aspect of the game is great for players’ mental health, and likely helped many during the pandemic and beyond.
Pickleball for All
By combining the best parts of the other racquet sports, pickleball achieves status as really being a game for everyone. You’re still whacking a ball over a net with a racquet, but it’s actually a paddle with a foam core. And the ball is a friendly and unintimidating wiffle-like ball with holes in it. The court is half the size of a tennis court, and the rules prevent a competition of who can smash a volley over the net the hardest.
We know that sports and being physically active are important for our wellbeing, but pickleball really takes the pickle here: it provides not only a fun and engaging game that gets the blood pumping, but also a social outlet and chance to connect with others. And it’s accessible. Newcomers can pick up the game with relative ease, and equipment requirements are minimal – just a paddle per player and a ball. Plus, courts are often free, especially outdoors. However, when the weather turns in Canada there’s another option for pickleball fans - indoor pickleball.
One of the perks of pickleball is you can play it inside or out. Existing courts can be converted into pickleball courts, and these have been popping up across the country. And living in Canada, having an indoor pickleball option is really important. Indoor pickleball clubs have been springing up across the country, making sure that avid players can continue playing indoor pickleball when the weather gets cold.
So grab your paddle and a partner, find another team to play against and head to your nearest indoor pickleball court as we head into colder weather. You’ll likely find yourself having a lot of fun, while giving your mental health a nice boost too.
If you’re looking to get started, Pickleball Canada has some great resources to help get you started including listings for the Provincial Pickleball Associations in Canada.