Alright, admit it. You knew at some point I would do a blog about pickleball. As I told my husband “All the cool kids are doing it!”
Although apparently it’s not just the cool kids over 50. Did you know there was now a professional Pickle Ball League? No kidding! Some of the biggest names in sports are buying professional pickleball teams. Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters (tennis) both own teams.
With all the hubbub, I had to find out what it was all about.
I have never been very sports-oriented. I was a cheerleader in high school and a personal trainer in my 40s, but I have never really played sports, so I decided to take lessons.
My husband, always supportive, agreed to take them with me. He is an athlete, but more as a runner and cyclist, so I felt we were pretty even.
We decided to take lessons at the Dancel YMCA in Howard County. I know there are many places to play and take lessons, but I was already a member so it seemed like a good choice.
If you’re not familiar with pickleball it is a cross between tennis and ping pong. It can be played on a tennis court, but there are different lines and boundaries. Our lines are purple. Not sure if they are purple everywhere, but wouldn’t you think they’d be green.
The racquets are a lot like ping pong paddles except a little longer and narrower.
For me the real difference is the balls. The balls are fluorescent and are just like the whiffle balls we grew up with. You would think they wouldn’t bounce very well, but they do. They also hurt when you get hit with them.
At the Y, the instructor loaned us racquets. I took the one with a dragon on it. I thought I could channel the fire of the dragon into my hit.
We also received a basket of big whiffle balls. They were the only types of balls I could ever hit with a bat, so I was already familiar with them.
It seems as though it would be the perfect “couple” sport. There are usually two people on a team and they work in tandem to prevent the other team from scoring. However, we heard that sometimes it’s not a great idea for couples to be on the same team. It can cause arguments. I think it might cause more issues if they were on opposing teams. We’re not there yet.
Our pickleball coach said the first rule was to “stay out of the kitchen.” Hey, that worked for me. They told me that the first day of Weight Watchers too.
The kitchen is the front court essentially and you aren’t supposed to hang out there. You can put one foot in, but then you taken one foot out. You put one foot in, but no shaking it all about like the Hokey-Pokey.
When you are up by the kitchen, you are dinking. (I really couldn’t make this stuff up.) Dinking is when you hit the ball softly over the net. Even the professionals dink. All pickleball players dink at some point.
Dinking did not really seem to be in my nature. I was more a slamming and lobbing kind of player, which has its place in pickleball.
Once we were done dinking, we rallied and volleyed. That means we ran around the court trying to hit the ball. Finally, we were ready to play a game, but not until lesson two.
Even before our lesson was over, the gym started to fill with pickleball players. The began lining up on the beach behind the courts. Apparently, you get in line and when you get to the head of the line it’s your turn to play.
Score keeping is pretty easy. You score on your serve. Just like tennis, the ball has to land in a specific section in order to be considered good. Unlike tennis, you serve underhand. There are none of those fabulous shots of a player arching back to hit the ball like there are in tennis. It’s more like a softball pitch.
Each player gets to serve before the serve is returned to the other team. Easy peasy. Not.
You only play to 11 unless a lot of people are waiting to play then it’s 9. And there are always a lot of people waiting to playing.
I had a great revelation after my first lesson. Pickleball really is fun and despite it’s silly name, it’s a serious workout. My heart rate got up and the next day muscles I hadn’t heard from in years were speaking my name.
During our second lesson, I got a sage piece of advice. “Don’t keep extra balls in your pocket. If you fall down and land on them, they hurt.” How did she know I fall down a lot? I think it’s more likely they would serve as a cushion when, not if, I fall.
During my third lessons, we had newbies on the court. You know, the ones who hadn’t had two whole lessons like I had. I was patient with them.
After my third lesson, I decided to take the plunge a buy a racquet. In the past, I had bought equipment that I had never touched again and later sold at yard sales for a tenth of the price. I don’t think that’s going to happen with my pickleball paddles.
I don’t think a professional pickleball career is in my future. I mean I am retired. I don’t want to have to start traveling the country to play in tournaments, but I do have my eye on a prize.
At the YMCA they have tournaments and I am already visualizing myself winning the grand prize. — A jar of pickles.
I love to tell people’s stories. If you know someone over 50 who has made a major life change, send me an email email@example.com. I would love to interview them.