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Pickleball? Yes, pickleball and it has nothing to do with food, although I do love pickles. Rather it’s a racquet sport that was crafted in the mid-1960’s, combining the components of tennis, ping pong and badminton into one exhilarating game. Played on either an indoor or outdoor court that has the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court (20 feet by 44 feet) and with a net two inches lower than a tennis net (36 inches high on the ends and 34 inches in the middle), pickleball is played with wooden or graphite paddles that are like oversized ping pong paddles and a baseball-sized wiffle ball.

Believe it or not, pickleball was invented accidentally, out of mere boredom by then Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend, businessman Bill Bell. The two decided to create the game on the spot to entertain their families during a gathering at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Everyone immediately fell in love with the game, including the Pritchard’s cocker spaniel, “Pickles,” who would often take the ball and then run with it since it was, after all, his ball. The families decided to name their new game “Pickleball” in honor of the beloved family pet. A third family friend, Barney McCallum, eventually joined in playing the sport and three gentlemen soon devised rules and regulations, basing them heavily on badminton guidelines.

While the sport has been around for more 40 years, it didn’t become a mainstream sport until it was included in the annual Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah in 2003. The Senior Games is for athletes 50 and older and attracts some 10,000 participants competing in a number of sports. Since these games, Pickleball has taken off like wildfire, becoming addictive to those who try it. Once somebody picks up a paddle, they just don’t want to stop playing. Yes, it’s that much fun!

Today, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S with pickleball courts sprouting up in all cities. Fun and easy, the game can be played by enthusiasts of all ages who have different playing abilities. It is simple enough for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive sport for the experienced players. You also do not need a powerful stroke since this game is not about power but more about the shot placement and accuracy. Like tennis, games are played as singles or doubles. Points are earned only when you serve the ball. Games are played to 11.

Most who give pickleball a try find it addictive and challenging. It also provides plenty of exercise, burning about 250 calories in 30 minutes for casual play if you weigh 150 pounds, 335 calories if you weigh 200 pounds. If you play more aggressively, then you can burn approximately 360 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 150 pounds, 475 calories in if you weigh 200 pounds. Pickleball works most of your muscle groups at the same time and improves your balance, dexterity, mobility and agility. It’s great for interval training with its quick bursts of activity and intermittent resting. Pickleball also helps with speed, overall fitness, discipline, social skills, and even sportsmanship. What a fun way to stay fit!

To learn more about pickleball, or find a facility close to your home, visit the USA Pickleball Association’s website. Many community centers and local YMCAs are also offering the sport. Just try it once if you have the opportunity. When you do, I’m certain it won’t be your last.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.