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The basics of pickleball

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A new court sport is sweeping the nation, and it isn’t tennis or basketball. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 4.8 million people played pickleball in 2021, marking a nearly 15% growth in the total number of players from the year prior. As it grows, it becomes more and more likely there’s a place to play near you too!

Data from the SFIA suggest pickleball is popular among people of all ages. Total participation among players ages 6 – 17 is 21%; 18 – 34 is 29%; and 35 – 54 is 20% is significant, and players 65 and older also are well represented (18%).

As the popularity of pickleball grows, now is a great time to explore the basics of this game that’s become a go-to pastime for so many people.

What is pickleball?

USA Pickleball notes that pickleball combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. That game is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes and can be played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Much like tennis, pickleball can be played in a singles (one-on-one) or doubles (two-on-two) format.

How long has pickleball been played?

Despite a recent and meteoric spike in popularity, pickleball has been around since 1965. The brainchild of three fathers from Bainbridge Island (a brief ferry ride from Seattle), the game was invented as a means of entertaining bored children. It has since evolved from those roots and become a wildly popular game across both the U.S. and Canada, and the game has even begun to spread into Europe and Asia.

Celebrities are even getting into it. Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a big fan of the sport, investing in the sport and founding tournaments (when he’s not playing himself).

How is pickleball played?

An extensive list of the rules of pickleball can be found at A game is typically played to 11 points, and a team must win by two. Tournament games may be played to 15 or 21, and a team must win by two.

Does pickleball utilize referees?

Recreational games of pickleball can rely on the honor system much like pick-up games of other sports do. However, USA Pickleball notes that referees and line judges are important components of tournament play.

Why should I play pickleball?

Players enjoy the game of pickleball for a multitude of reasons, including the thrill of competition, the chance to socialize and the opportunity to exercise outside of a gym or home fitness center. But many play the game because they find it fun.

Pickleball has experienced a notable spike in popularity in recent years. More information about the game and how to get involved is available at

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