Pickleball was deemed the fastest growing sport in the U.S. after participation rose 21.3% between 2019 and 2020. In March 2022 it was made the official state sport of Washington. Today there are millions of players not only in America but across the world. What is this popular game and what makes it so appealing? Does it have anything to do with the salty snack referenced in its title? We’ll clear those questions up so you can consider whether you want to grab a paddle to get in the game.
The Basics of Pickleball
Pickleball is a sport played with paddles and a whiffle ball on a badminton-sized court (44’ x 20’). It can be considered a cross between badminton, table tennis and standard tennis, however it’s grown into something far greater with many of its own unique attributes. One of pickleball’s most standout features is the non-volley zone near the net also called the “kitchen” which prevents aggressive strikes too close to the opposing team, allowing players of all ages and sizes to compete on more even footing.
Equipment for pickleball is typically not expensive, especially if players have local tennis or pickleball-specific courts they can use for play. You can find nearby options using USA Pickleball’s Places 2 Play website. If starting a game in your own driveway sounds more appealing, purchasing a portable net is a great alternative. Once a court location has been established, only paddles and a few pickleballs are needed to get started.
The game has a lower barrier to entry than most other paddle sports thanks to its relatively straightforward rules and small court size, yet competition at the highest levels has been heating up with nationwide and international tournaments promising prizes, fame and recognition of players’ skills. It’s the ideal sport for both families looking for casual fun and more ambitious players craving an opportunity to prove their talent. Games can be played one on one in singles or with teams of two in doubles.
The following video provides a brief introduction to the rules of pickleball so you can get started right away. For more extensive details, take a look at the complete rulebook.
The History of Pickleball
If you’re curious why pickleball has such a strong connection to the Pacific Northwest, that’s because it was founded on Bainbridge Island in 1965 by congressman Joel Pritchard and his friends William Bell and Barney McCallum. The three were on vacation attempting to figure out a game for their kids to play but only had mixed equipment from different sports—so they made do with the items on hand. The initial pickleball gear consisted of table tennis paddles, a whiffle ball and a lowered badminton net, while the finer details grew from there.
As pickleball reached more people by word of mouth and with the creation of the first pickleball equipment company (Pickle-ball Inc), more and more players grew enamored with its charms. Today it’s played not only on public courts but in schools, camps, recreation centers, retirement communities, correctional facilities, YMCAs and many other locales.
Why Do Tennis Players Switch to Pickleball?
This is a common question we’re asked at PickleballCentral and after having interacted with many tennis players who got addicted to the game, we can share some of the most common answers:
Smaller court size and lighter equipment is easier on the body
Shorter match length (around 15-25 minutes compared to a tennis match averaging 90 minutes)
Friends and family can quickly learn to play adequately even if they have no experience
More depth and strategy to the game than it seemed at first glance
Competitive opportunities and tournament money without being as oversaturated as tennis
Not much elitism/friendly community filled with all types of people
Apart from occasional spats over players commandeering tennis courts for the use of pickleball, we believe there’s no reason these two sports can’t coexist! Both offer their own individual perks and while some tennis players have switched over to pickleball entirely, others continue to enjoy both. Many of the top pickleball players in the world have tennis backgrounds, so there is certainly an overlap of abilities between the sports and it never hurts to diversify ways to stay fit.
Why Is It Called Pickleball?
The burning question many new players have is why pickleball is called what it is. While we hate to let readers down, the sport does not actually have anything to do with brined cucumbers. When pickleball was first developed, Joan (Joel Pritchard’s wife) called the game pickleball because, “The combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”
Later on Barney McCallum would say the name was chosen in honor of the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would snatch the whiffle ball away from the families at play. However, the cocker spaniel was purchased over a year after pickleball had already been founded, meaning the dog was named after the sport rather than the other way around. Can’t blame a businessman for wanting a memorable origin story!
How to Start Playing Pickleball
If you already have a nearby court to visit then grabbing a bundle of paddles and pickleballs is all you need to begin. If there don’t seem to be any courts you can easily reach (remember that badminton and tennis courts can be tweaked for pickleball use) then purchasing your own portable net will allow you to set things up wherever there’s access to a hard, flat surface. Many players begin right at their own homes or else look for unused parking lots. You can either grab a net as part of a complete pickleball set or as a stand-alone purchase.
Wood paddles are the cheapest options available and very hardy, making them a great investment for kids or new players concerned they may lose their grip while learning the ropes. As your skills improve then lighter and more responsive options made from graphite or composite surfaces will be the next upgrades.
We’re always happy to help newcomers to the game find the best options for their needs. If you’d like to start playing pickleball but still have questions, give us a call and we’ll help you figure out which gear will work for you.
With the turn of the new year it is always nice to have some things to look forward to. Maybe you’re looking to level up your game this year, spend more time with family and friends, stay active and focus on health in a FUN way, or challenge yourself. Whether you’re newly introduced to pickleball or have been playing much longer, we have some ideas for everyone.
Resolution #1: Commit to Practice!
In 2021 we saw lots of great pickleball gear aimed for practice. The best way to become a better player is often the simplest. Whether it’s playing a practice game or drilling specific skills, you always have the ability to improve through hard work and dedication. Of course, certain training aids can make the process easier as well.
Ball Machines: The two pickleball machines we carry, the Tutor and Lobster, allow you to practice more easily without a partner by sending lobs, spin shots and dinks your way.
Pickleballs: GAMMA released a Two-Tone Outdoor Training Pickleball that helps to show how the ball is spinning so you can practice both receiving and doling out spin shots.
Pickle Palooza is a one-of-a-kind event that offers all the thrills of a tournament without the stress of competition. Located in Mesa, AZ, this fun annual event runs from March 4-6 this year at Bell Bank Park. There will be court exhibitions and interviews with the pros, skill-based open play, paddle demos, one-on-one instruction, and entertainment. It’s the perfect excuse for players to share in some pickleball-centric fun, and with enjoyable activities in the surrounding area (such as the Phoenix zoo, art museum and botanical gardens), you can make a great vacation out of it.
Resolution #3: Upgrade your Paddle
We have seen several major innovations in paddle technology in 2021 with some new heavy hitters joining the scene. If you’ve been playing with the same paddle for a while it might be time to experiment with others. Here are a few that we suggest looking into:
Aeroshot Paddles from Oneshot Pickleball – Oneshot released two new paddles with their innovative new Airflow Technology to create vents in the sides of the paddle for reduced drag and increased hand speed.
The Warrior Paddle from Diadem – The thickest paddle on the market, this 19mm core paddle has the softest touch ever, with a highly gritty surface that enhances spin shots, and plenty of power.
New line of Paddles from ProXR – ProXR Pickleball recently launched their first line of pickleball paddles with their unique, patented, ergonomically designed handles that improve reload speed and exit velocity.
New line of Paddles from adidas – This heavy hitter in the sports market entered pickleball with a range of new paddles to suit all skill levels and play preferences.
VANGUARD 2.0 from Selkirk – Selkirk’s VANGUARD Hybrid 2.0 series feature their new Pro-Spin Texture for more spin than ever before and their new Gen2 durable surface.
CX11 and CX14 Paddles from Gearbox – The all-new CX-11 and CX-14 paddles from Gearbox bring years of innovation in paddle design to a whole new level, with a shape and core thickness for every player.
Resolution #4: Introduce a friend of family member to Pickleball
We all can agree that the reason we fell in love with Pickleball in the first place is because it is FUN! This sport is growing at a rapid pace and we are excited to see what the future holds. Who are you going to invite on this wild ride with us in 2022? It can be a friend, family member, coworker or neighbor but we all know once they get the feel for it they wont want to put it down! This might seem like the “easiest” resolution of them all but it is certainly one of the most important to help flourish our Pickleball Community!
Resolution #5: Play in a tournament
Competition isn’t for everyone, but even if you’re a fairly laid-back player, participating in a tournament can be a great way to strengthen your abilities, make new friends and take part in the greater pickleball community. Tournaments are the perfect excuse to knuckle down on training and come out the other side knowing you played your best. There are also a number of exciting new tours taking place this year that will serve to bring pickleball to an even broader audience, so taking part in one of them will truly have you becoming part of the sport’s history!
A few exciting upcoming tournaments that we recommend include:
Resolution #6: Improve your grip in more ways than one
Sometimes you might want a little extra tack to improve your hold on your paddle, or need to replace a grip that had worn down over time. Other players who get particularly sweaty hands appreciate the benefits that highly absorbent grips provide. Fortunately it’s quite easy to switch your grip (see how here) or layer an overgrip on top of your grip to provide better feel. Grips also provide a great opportunity to add a little flair to your paddle with fun colors and designs.
Alternately, if you want to keep your handle as-is but learn new ways to improve how you hold your paddle, you may want to experiment with different (hand) grip techniques to see how they affect your ability to make different shots. You can explore various ways to hold your paddle by watching this video with Glen Peterson.
Dave Thomas – USAPA Ambassador Growing Pickleball in Town of Riga, Churchville, New York
Dave Thomas, USAPA Ambassador and Recreation Supervisor, The Town of Riga, N.Y.
Hello pickleball folks! My name is Dave Thomas and I have been involved with the wonderful game of pickleball since 1983-84. I found out about the game at the New York State Physical Education Conference in Syracuse, New York. I immediately knew that this was an activity that I wanted to introduce to my students. I taught it in my PE classes to children in Grades 3-6 from 1984 until 2005 when I retired. I adjusted my teaching style to the ages of these students. I figure that I taught it to at least 8,000+ students.
After retiring from teaching, I joined our local YMCA and noticed that they were offering a pickleball league. I was SO surprised! I signed up because I had never played with other adults; I just taught it. After starting to play I researched my new activity. I couldn’t believe how huge pickleball was in 2006.
I retired and secured a new post-retirement job as Recreation Supervisor for the Town of Riga in Churchville, NY. I put my name in with the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) and became a USAPA Ambassador for Rochester, New York—the very first one from this area. Within a week I was receiving emails from “snowbirds” inquiring about outdoor play once they returned. In 2006 there were only 2 pickleball courts in the area at the Westside YMCA on Elmgrove Road in Rochester. I knew we had to try and get others involved, so with the help of many folks we spread the word about pickleball. Thirteen years later, we have indoor & outdoor courts in just about every town in the Rochester, New York area. We’ve gone from 2 courts in 2006 to over 180 courts in 2019!
New Courts in Town of Riga
Recently, I contacted our New York state senator and asked him if he could support the tiny Village of Churchville, New York in the town of Riga by securing a $50.000 grant to build a 2-court venue. He wholeheartedly agreed, and the pictures you see are the result of this grant.
Before pickleball courts
Town of Riga Highway Department Boxing Out the courts
Town of Riga Highway Dept. rolling out gravel base
First layer of asphalt
Putting second smooth coat of asphalt down
Cutting out for poles
Drilling holes for sleeve installation
Getting ready to cement net post holes
Finished fencing for the court
Starting the Primer coat
Town of Riga “Super Seal Gang” that painted the courts! A terrific job!
This is how they paint the lines, with a spray can, then followed along with a roller.
Last November they put the final coat of paint on the courts but alas… it did not take as the sun did not shine and the snow ruined it! As soon as we were able to string together 3-4 sunny & 60 degree days, the company came out and repainted.
Poles installed, measured to correct height and ready for the nets
Nets attached, tables in place and ready for the Grand Opening on June 26, 2019
New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer making the first official serve on the Town of Riga’s Pickleball Complex.
After our Grand Opening we were featured on Spectrum New’s “Your Morning Rochester” TV show, Wendy Mills was the host and we had a wonderful time bringing this facility and pickleball to the audience.
Thank you Dave for sharing your story about how you are growing pickleball in the Rochester New York region. Congratulations!
People often view pickleball as “tennis lite” due to the small court size, slower ball and manageable paddle sizes. While it’s true that pickleball is easier on the body compared to tennis and most other racquet sports, it’s dangerous to presume that you can’t get injured at all playing the game.
As with any sport, there are risks involved. Thankfully these problems can be minimized with proper precautions and self care. Here are a few ways to ensure you stay safe so you can continue playing pickleball for a long time:
Don’t rush for shots
You know how volleyball players will throw themselves into dramatic dives to return the ball? Don’t do that!
Skinned knees, smacked elbows and possibly even broken bones are not worth saving a single point. While it’s understandable that you might be tempted to leap for a ball that’s just out of range, you don’t want to put off play for weeks on end because you pushed yourself too far.
Let the ball go instead of doing lasting damage to your body.
Don’t run backwards during lobs
Similar to the point above, too many players end up scuttling backwards when they see a high shot and end up tripping over themselves.
Take a moment to fully twist your hips to the side and let your feet point in the direction you’re moving. You can keep your eye on the ball, but if you feel yourself losing balance, take a moment to reacquaint yourself with your position on the court.
Avoid pickleball elbow
In many cases, prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to pickleball elbow. Choose a paddle that’s the right weight for you so you don’t strain your tendons, and don’t play so much that you put undue stress on your body.
Properly warming up, stretching, wearing braces and adding some weight lifting into your exercise routine can also help prep yourself for play.
Wear the right shoes
We recommend using a good tennis or volleyball shoe for pickleball depending on whether you’re playing outdoors or indoors.
Make sure you’re not wearing anything with slippery soles so you don’t lose your balance on the court, nor anything too “grippy” so that you don’t trip over yourself during faster movements.
Pay attention to your body
If you’re feeling tired, winded, dizzy or simply drained, give yourself a break! Pickleball games tend to be short and your partner and opponents will likely appreciate the rest period as well. Your health comes before play.
You may think it could never happen to you, but some players have experienced heart attacks after playing pickleball, and you should be wary of the warning signs. Pay attention for pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and pain along the arms, back, neck and jaw.
Especially if you’re playing doubles, make sure you’re calling “mine” or “yours” and have an established method for determining who goes after what ball. Talking to your partner will help you avoid accidental collisions, which can be as minor as a smacked hand or as dramatic as running into each other during a lob.
Don’t be afraid to talk with your opponents, either. This can be particularly relevant if you’re playing against more aggressive players who use tagging (hitting the ball into the body) to score points. This is an accepted part of the game, but casual games don’t need to be held to the same standards as those in tournaments.
Pickleball is safer than many sports, but you should still be cautious and ensure proper care of your body. Are there any unfortunate situations you could have avoided with a bit more awareness?
Provo City Fire and Rescue Are Great Pickleballers
A while back we posted a video by Scott Anderson on our PickleballCentral Facebook page. It featured the Provo City Fire and Rescue team playing pickleball in full firefighter gear.
We decided to ask Scott for more of the story on how they got into pickleball. Enjoy!
Tell us about playing pickleball in the firehouse. How did you get started?
The Provo City Fire and Rescue Station was introduced to pickleball at the Provo City rec center, which has 3 indoor courts and 8 outdoor courts. If we don’t get calls during our PT time in the mornings we often play after working out. We have a blast playing pickleball at the firehouse. We don’t play in full gear often, so that day we did we made sure to record it. 😁
Does everyone play? Why do you play?
Not all the firefighters play, I’d say maybe half of our department. Those of us that do love the competition and how fun it is. Some just play for fun on the days they work, a few like me participate in tournaments when we can.
Have you ever been playing pickleball and have the fire alarm go off?
Yes, we’ve been playing and had the alarm go off! We carry our radios with us so we can just drop our paddles and be ready to go! It’s weird playing pickleball one minute and the next minute you could be in your fire gear going on a call.
We have mostly Paddletek paddles and Onix Pure 2 Balls.
Do you ever compete in tournaments?
I’m one of the few who play in tournaments. I remember my first tournament was with my friend and captain. We entered our first tournament a few years ago not having any clue what level we were. We had only played a few times and tried the 4.0 level and found out quickly we shouldn’t be in that division. We did win one match though! I’m a 4.5 level player now.
Do you ever compete with other firehouses?
I’m wondering if there are any full time firefighters out there that are 5.0’s? 😬 We haven’t competed with other firehouses yet. I can see that happening soon though. Yes, we play away from the firehouse when we’re off duty too.
Do you play pickleball away from the firehouse, when you’re off duty?
I introduced my wife to pickleball and she played with me for a while, then passed me up and reached the 5.0 level. So I’m trying to catch up to her now! We love it and look forward to playing it every chance we get.
Provo City Recreation Center
Thank you Scott, for sharing more of the Provo City Fire and Rescue pickleball story with us. Here’s hoping you find other fire stations nearby that will join you in some friendly competition.
Activity Center at Trinity Episcopal School, Galveston
I heard it by the grapevine that some great things were happening in one school PE program in Galveston, Texas. Here is some of their story, shared by Anne Hyatt, Program Director at Trinity Episcopal School. ENJOY!
We are in our 4th year of playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal School, and I jokingly say that I have a group of little addicts. They are always asking me if they can play during PE, get more court time, when our next tournament is, etc. They are nuts about pickleball! I’m our school’s Program Director, and coincidentally also in my 4th year here. I was charged with creating after-school and extra-curricular activities in our new athletic facility, and in my first year I stumbled upon pickleball in an equipment catalog and thought we should give it a shot. We practice once a week, on Fridays, from 3:00pm-5:30pm. When I started, we played on Fridays for the spring semester. We are now up to every Friday from September – March, and I know they’re going to ask me for extra practices in April.
The first year wasn’t as successful as we’d hoped. We only had about 18 students in 2nd – 8th grade, and a lot of them didn’t stick with it. The second year I had more students (20) in the same age range, but I tried to change our dynamic: we had holiday parties, a separate practice for the older kids and hosted our first “tournament.”
Students playing pickleball at Trinity Episcopal
I think there were only 6 students registered, but at that point they finally had a grasp of the rules and it was awesome to see this competitive spirit come out of them during tournament play. I also added pickleball into my PE curriculum. I think it was a combined effort of students getting better and me getting better too. I was more confident in the rules and how to play the game and it helped the kids be more confident as well.
Last year the program took off; I had 30 students registered for after-school pickleball, with an even split of 15 2nd-5th graders and 15 6th-8th graders. We extended our season and played from October – March, and 20 of the 30 students participated in our 2nd annual “Spring Swing Tournament.”
Trinity Episcopal medal winners at Mid-South Regionals
I took 10 students to the USAPA Mid-South Regional in May of 2016 to compete, and everyone medaled in either doubles or singles (or both). We were the only Juniors registered, but we don’t mention that. 😉 Last year’s group was so large that I had to enlist the help of a couple parent volunteers, and we also hosted a family night where parents could play with or compete against their students.
This year the program is at an all-time high. I have 37 students playing after school, 18 2nd-5th graders and 19 6th-8th graders, and they are insane about the sport. Every week my younger kids learn some part of the court, the game or the rules of play and we practice basic techniques like forehand shots, volleys and serving. We end almost every practice with a game called “Defender” – sort of like King of the Court – and they all groan when I say time is up. My 6th-8th graders work on skills and strategy. They play as many games as they can during the hour and half practice. I’ve literally had to blink the lights on them to get them to quit and go home.
2016 Spring Swing Tournament Participants
We really are a pickleball school, as silly as it sounds. When my players traveled to Louisiana in May to compete, it was the farthest any of our athletic teams had ever traveled to compete. I have kindergarten parents stop me and tell me that they can’t wait for TWO years from now, when their child can start playing pickleball. One of our biggest challenges is that they don’t have the opportunity to compete against other students, or they aren’t really welcomed to enter in the 19+ division of tournaments. They are crazy about pickleball, and it’s so cool to see their development and growth in the sport. I love what the sport has done for our students and for our campus as a whole.
Thank you Anne for sharing how a program like yours can grow pickleball athletes!
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pickleball, but if you jump into a game as soon as you hit the courts, it may be more than your technique that suffers. Warming up is a big part of not only improving your performance, but ensuring you stay safe during play. Slogging through a series of stretches and 15 minutes of jump rope isn’t the only way to activate your muscles; instead try these simple tips.
Stretching doesn’t have to be a pain!
If you have a partner to work with, practice dinking back and forth or focusing on other techniques that concern play up at the net. You can slightly bend your knees and rally the ball back and forth, making your way toward one side of the net and then the other. This will not only get your body moving, but help you work on accuracy and control.
This exercise is a great choice for pickleball since your knees should normally be bent in a “ready” position during play. Take a long step and then slowly lower yourself in to a lunge, then push up with your quad and repeat on the other leg. You can do this a few times by following the length of the court. Don’t just go through the motions; imagine that you’re having to stretch for a wayward pickleball every time so that your muscles really activate!
This is usually more fun if you can run outdoors, but taking a few laps will get your heart pumping so that your body is prepared for fast action when the game starts. The warmer your body is, the more hemoglobin gets produced, meaning higher levels of oxygen in the bloodstream pushing you toward peak performance.
Suit up for a quick run
You know how you can end up flailing a bit when reaching for tough shots? Well, this warm-up technique is like that, but more controlled. Moving your arms in big circles or “windmills” will loosen up your joints and muscles so they’re ready to swing for pickleballs later on. The more prepped your arms are, the more flexible and resilient they’ll be.
Rock Your Ankles
Be careful moving into this position, but if you can comfortably get on your hands and feet, try linking one foot behind the other and gently move your grounded foot up and back. You should feel a stretch along the back of your calves. This motion can also improve your balance. Keeping your ankles safe during play is very important since it can be easy to trip by moving too quickly.
These are just a few ideas to get started, but if you want to continue playing pickleball for a long time to come, please be sure to properly care for your body before and after play. What are some of your favorite ways to get your body ready for pickleball?
Pickleball is a social sport by nature, and since many players’ favorite type of game is doubles, more people equals more fun. But what can you do if there aren’t many picklers in your area, or if pickleball itself is relatively unknown?
We recommend starting your own pickleball club. This can seem daunting at first, but the truth is it can be as simple as contacting a nearby rec center or finding an old tennis court. You’ll end up with more people to play with, and a whole new group of pickleball fanatics will be born. It’s win-win!
Pickleball is highly addictive, and if you can get even a few people on the courts, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get return visitors bringing their friends. Let’s walk through how you can go about setting up your own pickleball paradise.
Find a Place to Play Pickleball
The first step is finding a suitable place to play. Choosing a centralized location in your city is always a plus, as it will make your club more accessible to visitors. If you know of a nearby rec center, park or other public facility where there are already tennis courts then that’s a plus, as you can fit 4 pickleball courts within 1 tennis court. There are detailed instructions on how to utilize a tennis court for pickleball here. Doubles badminton courts are the same size as those used in pickleball as well.
Our court is in the warehouse, but the net gets moved around depending on how many boxes are present…
If you can find a location with pre-established courts, you’ll need to ask the owner or coordinator of the facility if it would be possible to allow a time for pickleball drop-ins to play, and if it’s okay to use court tape or temporary markers on the ground to establish boundary lines. Another useful tool is a net adjuster so you can lower tennis or badminton nets to the appropriate height of 34”.
Of course, the most accessible place to play is the court you build yourself! If you have the space, you can always install your own court using our Wilson posts or set things up on the go using a portable net system. We also know about plenty of communities that have lobbied to get public pickleball courts installed with great success.
Choose the Right Equipment
Once you have a court, the next step is to ensure your members have equipment. It’s great if people can bring their own paddles and balls, however if you’re starting from scratch, there’s a possibility most of your members will be newbies. It doesn’t hurt to have extras on hand for anyone curious about the game either, since most people end up investing in better paddles down the line.
The most affordable type of paddles are wood, so it’s possible to buy several without breaking the bank. However, if you want potential members to get a real sense of what a “good” pickleball paddle plays like, buying a couple low cost composite paddles (which will be cheaper if they’re gently used) will be your best bet.
Find Members for Your Pickleball Club
So how do you go about finding members? A good place to start is to look at nearby USAPA members and other clubs in your area by going to USAPA.org. Not only will they be able to offer advice on getting up your club set up, but some members might find it convenient to visit your location.
You can also build interest by advertising at recreation centers, senior communities, talking with friends and otherwise sharing it along the grapevine. Word tends to spread naturally once you find a few people to start, as members get their friends and family involved. Offering free lessons is the best way to get newcomers to the courts, otherwise they may feel out of their depth. You don’t have to be a professional to share your love and general knowledge of the game.
A pickleball coach sharing the game from Pickleball Canada
The USAPA provides a lot of materials that you can use to supply players with information. At PickleballCentral we include Coach Mo’s Strategy Guide in most of the packages we send out, so that’s another good tool to have in your arsenal. These sort of “take home” packages are a plus, but we find that simply getting people onto the court is the quickest way to rack up interest.
Another tried-and-true way to get attention and make sure everyone in your area knows about pickleball is to contact the local media. Even if only a few members are in attendance, news outlets are eager to feature new initiatives, and the increase in exposure can really help your club thrive.
Keep People in the Loop
A simple way to maintain ongoing engagement is to create a website so people can view your schedule. This makes it easier to get information to members and beginners alike. Setting up a website is quite simple these days. You can sign up for free at WordPress to get access to the same user-friendly platform we use to share our blog. You should also get yourself listed on the USAPA’s Communities and Clubs list and their Places to Play section—it’s free!
Enjoy the Best Savings
Lastly, be sure to sign up with our Club Rewards program. There’s no fee to get started, and you and your club members will receive a special code to get 5% off every order at PickleballCentral. Another 5% of your order total will go into a savings account which will accrue funds based on all your members’ purchases throughout the year. At the start of the New Year, we’ll send you a gift certificate code for the money you saved to be spent on new supplies and gear.
A look at the extensive U.S. Open courts
The USAPA says that in 2015 an average of nearly 20 new locations to play pickleball are being established weekly: That’s over 1,040 courts a year! With the sport experiencing such massive growth you can bet that starting your own club will allow you to get the most out of the pickleball movement.
The Definitive Guide to Pickleball Court Construction
As the baby boomers started trickling into retirement a few years ago, something explosive began in the world of pickleball. Now with that trickle in full flood, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America. According the USA Pickleball Association,(www.usapa.org), last year alone over 1,000 new places to play pickleball were opened nationwide. If you or your community haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, it’s time to make it happen.
Several years ago, one of our co-founders wrote an article for the USAPA on how to convert underutilized tennis courts into pickleball courts ( click HERE to download David’s Underused Court Guide). The article below will address the broader issues of setting up new pickleball courts.
Whether you’re interested in setting up a simple court at home, repurposing an underused basketball or tennis court or helping to bring your community a multi-court complex, this guide is intended to help you through each step of the process. We’ll start with the basics of court construction so that if you’re new to the game you can get yourself started as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Ready to upgrade your playing surface? We’ll walk you through the process of transforming some underutilized spaces almost every town has. Does your community already have a strong and growing pickleball club? Sounds like you’re ready to start working with your local Parks & Recreation Department to find a dedicated space for multiple courts, perhaps with some lighting for those short winter days.
Cost ConsiderationsThe costs of pickleball court construction vary widely depending on your vision. On the low end, to get started with a simple home set including a portable net, 4 paddles, balls and a roll of court tape, you’ll be looking at roughly $200 – $400.
On the high end, you could work off of the example set by the pickleball club of Bend, OR, which recently raised close to $300,000 for a new 8-court complex complete with lighting for evening play and stadium seating for tournaments.
Between the $300 starter set and the $300,000 multi-court community complex is where most folks will fall. Here’s a rough cost breakdown:
Net/Court Tape – $300
Court Resurfacing – $3,500 – $5,000
New Court Construction
Basic ($10,000 – $15,000)
Basic plus lighting and fencing – $20,000 – $35,000
8-Court Community Complex with fencing but no lighting – $110,000 – $150,000
8-Court Community Complex with fencing, lighting, and stadium seating – $300,000 and up.
Whatever your budget, pickleball is an easy sport to get into, and an even easier sport to love.
Noise – Are your neighbors, homeowners association or community at large all right with a court or courts going in? A growing number of communities have started to deal with complaints about pickleball noise. See: GV News and The Wall Street Journal. A noise reducing option is highlighted below.
Orientation – Where does the predominant light come from on your site? Shade? Wind? What time of day will you typically be playing? All of these factors should be considered when you’re determining the orientation of your court(s). The USAPA recommends a north-south orientation.
Court Color – Regardless of the surface you choose for your court, you will have your options of color schemes. To play around with different color options click here: Court Color Tool
DIY vs Professional Contractors – Putting in a basic court with an existing pad is a relatively easy endeavor that almost anyone can do. With the right tools, you could even put in your own permanent nets and paint a nice court. But if you’re looking at resurfacing or building a new court, it’s worth the extra cost to have a professional do it right. They’ll not only warranty their work in most cases, but they’ll also help ensure that your new court is up to code for your community.
Pickleball began as a backyard creation in 1965 when a group of friends couldn’t find the shuttlecock to play badminton. Over a few days of tinkering, the creators worked out equipment kinks and rules. They dropped the badminton net to 36”, built some basic paddles out of plywood and used a wiffleball. If you have a paved, flat driveway or an old asphalt basketball court, then you’re ready to slap some lines down and get playing.
An official pickleball court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. You’ll want to leave room on the sides and ends for running off court after playing a ball, so the recommended playing area is 34 by 64 feet. If converting tennis courts, four pickleball courts can fit in the same area at dimensions of 30 feet by 60 feet (see diagram below). If you’re setting up your court indoors, it’s recommended that you have at least 18-20 feet of height to the light fixtures.
If you’re installing permanent nets you’ll need to decide what size net you’d like to purchase. Regulation nets should all be positioned so that they’re 36″ high at the sides and 34″ in the center of the court, however when it comes to a net’s actual dimensions, products come in either a 31″ height or a full 36 inches. If you want to be able to roll a pickleball underneath the net, go with the shorter 31″ option, otherwise the 36″ net will prevent balls from crossing beneath.
Supplies You’ll Need:
A spool of string or a carpenter’s chalk line to mark off initial lines before permanently marking them.
It’s important to test a small portion of your court to see how it reacts to the tape you’ve selected before lining it completely. Most tape will leave a small amount of residue, and while this is normally a nonissue as it can be wiped away with soap and water after use, there is a risk that tape can cause permanent discoloration.
*If converting a local basketball or tennis court, or even putting lines in a neighborhood cul-de-sac, you’ll want to make sure to get permission from your local Parks & Recreation Department and/or the neighborhood homeowners association first.
Installing a Court
Step 1: After selecting the area that you want to put the court in, tape the end of your string to the ground.
Step 2: Measure out 20-feet in as straight of a line as possible. Pull the string taught and tape the end to the ground.
Step 3: At a right angle to your second corner, measure out 44 feet and tape that end to the ground, (a large carpenter’s square can come in handy here).
Step 4: Repeat Step 2 at a right angle to your last corner and then repeat step 3 at a right angle to that corner. (In measuring your final 44 foot section you may realize that you’re off by a few inches, in which case you’ll need to adjust the positioning of the previous corners to fix your angles).
Step 5: Once you have four square corners and the distances accurate, use your court tape or line spray and go over the top of your new rectangular line. Now that you have the basic outline in place, setting up the rest of the lines will be easy.
Step 6: Measure 22 feet from the end line and set a net post up. From the opposite end corner do the same and set up your net.
Step 7: From each corner measure 15 feet towards the net and make a mark. Tie a line between the marks and paint or tape over it; this is the kitchen line.
Step 8: Measure in 10 feet on your kitchen line and make a mark. Do the same on each end line. Tie a line between the marks and paint or tape over it.
Step 9: Start playing pickleball!
You may want to include some helpful accessories and training aids in your plans so that drilling, games and clean-up go extra smoothly once your court is complete. We recommend the following:
If doing it yourself isn’t your style, or if you have a pad that needs to be improved before playing on it, call your local sports court surfacer and they can paint professional lines or resurface your existing pad to your specifications. Resurfacing costs will be specific to your court site, but generally will range between $3,500 – $5,000.
Another option for your court surface is a tile court system such as VersaCourt. Some players don’t like the way the ball bounces on a tile court system, but we’ve gotten fairly good reviews about them. The primary benefit of a VersaCourt system is that its design drastically reduces the impact on joints and the lower back. It’s grippy surface reduces the risks when lunging or jumping for balls. The added safety and reduced wear and tear on your body from a VersaCourt system will cost approximately $5,000 – $8,000. We recommend that you use a ball that is designed for use on hardwood or cement like the Onix Pure 2 or Fuse.
Working with a Contractor
But what if you don’t have a big, flat driveway? Or the local tennis club doesn’t want to share their courts with you and your group of picklers? Perhaps it’s time to call your local concrete contractor and sports court surfacer. We talked to Jason Black at Cascade Sports and Tennis Court Surfacing, about the costs and steps of putting in a new court or resurfacing an old one. Jason and his team surfaced the 4 courts at our Kent, Washington headquarters and did a fantastic job.
Jason recommends calling up a concrete contractor or landscape architect first and getting a quote from them. Pouring a new court varies dramatically in cost depending on the site you’ve selected for your court. Variables such as drainage, excavation, grading and site layout will affect the cost per square foot. You’ll also want to look into your community’s regulations regarding drainage. Some areas require a certain amount of drainage per lot, which your house and any other structures will count against. Do you have enough drainable space to put a new concrete pad? Do you have room for parking?
For a minimum of a 1,500 square foot pad, the price could vary from $8,000 – $35,000. Asphalt is cheaper to pour, but the surfacing costs are higher because there’s more air pockets to fill. Contractors most likely will not give you a quote over the phone; they’ll need to come look at the site to give you an estimate.
Once you’ve got your estimate and a trusted contractor, that’s when you call your local court surfacing company and talk to someone like Jason. Your court surfacing company will contact the concrete contractor before they pour the slab and make sure they pour the pad properly. It is imperative that the slab is poured specifically for court construction.
Jason emphasized three important points in dealing with your concrete contractor:
Insist on a medium broom finish;
A vapor barrier to help with proper drainage is a must to insure the longevity of your court;
Make sure the contractor uses zip strips in forming the seams between sections of the pad. If you look at most patios or sidewalks you’ll notice a roughly 1/2 inch gap between sections, which would have to be filled and patched before a court surface was put down. Patches wear down much faster than the rest of your pad. On a new pad, nobody wants a patch!
“It kills me when people pour their expensive pad and the concrete guy says a vapor barriers or zip strips aren’t necessary,” Jason said. “It has to be poured specifically as a court, not as you would pour a patio or sidewalk, otherwise folks end up having to patch their brand new pads to make them work as courts.”
A couple of other points you’ll want to address with the contractor is whether or not you want permanent net posts installed, if you want fencing around the court and if you want lighting. If so, all three will need to take place with the pour.
Once you’ve got your pad poured to the exact specifications you need, it will take 28-days for the concrete pad to cure before a court surface can be applied; 14 days in the case of asphalt. Once it’s cured, it will take only about 3 or 4 days, sunshine dependent, for a company like Cascade Sports and Tennis Court Surfacing to finish off your new court. For a brand new court at 1,500 square feet, the cost for surfacing will be about $3,500 – $5,000, (a bit cheaper for resurfacing as less coats of acrylic are necessary).
“We start by filling in any seams or imperfections the concrete contractor may have left,” Jason said. “We apply an adhesion promoter, which has to be done quickly but is painstaking work. We get that down and then have to get the first coat of Acrylic down within two hours. For every 30 gallons of the acrylic paint, we mix in 300 lbs of sand. This fills in all the cracks and air pockets and gives your court that nice textured surface.”
The first coat dries in about an hour and they scrape all the sand that hasn’t gone into any cracks back off (almost all of it). The acrylic has to cure for about an hour before a second coat can be applied.
Next comes the surface paint, which is at least a two day process with new courts as two coats are necessary. This is also a bit weather dependent for outdoor courts as the product requires direct sunlight to dry properly.
“We always try to put the second coat on in the morning, so I can watch it dry and make sure the sun hits the whole court,” Jason said. “If you’ve got one corner where the sun isn’t hitting, it won’t dry consistently and cure properly.”
Once the second coat has cured properly, court lines are painted and not long after you’re ready to break in your new pickleball court! Invite your friends over and before you know it pickleball will be growing rapidly throughout your community.
Building a Community Court Complex
Now that you’ve been helping grow the sport of pickleball in your community by modifying existing courts, working with the Parks & Recreation Department and even building your own backyard court, perhaps it’s time for a dedicated multi-court complex. There’s a lot of work and organization that goes into getting to this stage, but if your group of picklers has the momentum going, it could be time to start the process.
To provide us with an example of how to get this stage of growth going, we talked to A.J. Fraties, President of the Bend Pickleball Club. From humble beginnings, the Bend Pickleball Club has successfully raised over $110,000 and secured matching funds from the Bend Parks & Recreations Department to build an 8-court complex dedicated solely to pickleball. After those courts were finished in the summer of 2014, they quickly received a private donation of $250,000 to build another 8-court complex complete with lighting for evening play and stadium seating in order to host tournaments.
“In-kind donations from local contractors was an important part of our overall fundraising efforts,” A.J. said. In exchange for name plaques at the entrances to courts and banner advertising at tournaments, the Bend Pickleball Club received in-kind donations from a handful of local contractors. Whether it was to help with the concrete pad, painting the courts, installing the fences or putting in benches, the Bend Pickleball Club left no stone unturned in approaching local business sponsors.
The overall construction process is the same for a multi-court system as it is for a single court, just on a larger scale. One aspect to consider though are ball barrier fences between the courts. This is just a 4-foot fence, with padding, to prevent balls going into the courts of other players.
“We had the benefit of a working with a Parks & Recreation Department that gave us a dedicated site with infrastructure already in place,” A.J. added, while discussing the paved parking area and restrooms. “We didn’t have to raise money for that, which helped a lot.”
With a strong and growing pickleball club, the support of your local Parks & Recreation Department, and some support from local businesses, you can have your multi-court complex ready for tournaments.
We are so glad to know Steve Paranto! He is a wealth of information about all things pickleball. In this installment, Anna interviews Steve about the history of composite paddles and Pro-Lite Sports. Enjoy!
Anna: Okay, so, here we have Steve Paranto. And Steve has a long history of pickleball. Steve if you could tell us about when you started playing and what kind of paddle you used.
Steve: My very first exposure to pickleball was my community college, which is a suburb of Seattle, where the sport, near where the sport was invented, Green River Community College. And all the tennis players, I was a tennis player, during our lunches, we would go in and play pickleball and the first two weeks of college our professors went on strike. So we felt like, well we’re not going to class, let’s play pickleball all day and we did that. And back then our paddles were wooden paddles with holes in them and they weighed about 13 ounces, so they were very heavy.
Anna: And you said that your dad..
Steve: So my dad would follow us around to tournaments and my dad was a Boeing engineer and he was an athletic person, so he loved sports and would root us on. And the partner I had at the time, we did fairly well, but we kept losing in the semis and finals to the same people over and over. And I was frustrated and I came home one day and I said, “You know these paddles, these wooden paddles are too heavy.” I weighed a pickleball paddle and I weighed a pickleball and they were thirteen times heavier than the ball. I weighed a tennis racket at the time and a tennis ball, and they were seven times heavier. And I said, “The ratio is off.” So a week later, Dad makes two prototypes out of Boeing floor paneling, he was an engineer at Boeing and we had the prototypes, we went to the next tournament and beat those guys, the same guys that we were losing to and that was the start of the company.
Anna: I am curious about the facings on those. Were they graphite facing?
Steve: They were fiberglass, they were fiberglass the very first (ones). They were honeycomb, just like everything you see now is basically a copy of some sort of that material.
Anna: Do you know what year that was?
Steve: That was 1984.
Anna: And did it have an edge guard on it or how did that..?
Steve: That was the only part of the paddle my dad did not manufacture, we had that molded by a company. My dad made every single portion of that paddle in our garage in Eatonville, Washington.
Anna: And then, what about the grips and the build ups on those?
Steve: Oh well, Dad did that out of a foam material, cut that out of foam. He did that all himself. Beveled it. Had a process to bevel it and then we would be gripping paddles. It was about a 22 step process to make a paddle.
Anna: And you made them in your, your garage?
Anna: Right! Did your dad play pickleball too?
Steve: …he did and he got very good for senior level. He was winning local stuff for his age. He is 84 now, so. At that time, he was younger than I am now. So it’s kind of hard for me to believe when I look at those old pictures that, “Hey Dad, you’re younger there in that picture than I am now.”
Anna: Right. Your dad started the company Pro-Lite.
Steve: Well, it was the lightest paddle available and we thought we’d put “Pro” in front of it. The lightning bolt came from watching the movie “The Natural” by Robert Redford. We were watching the movie when we were starting the company and we liked how Robert Redford put the lightning bolt on his bat. So the next day we had a lightning bolt as our logo.
Anna: Great. And then you guys sold the company to..?
Steve: We sold it to Mark Kendall Lario who then a couple years later sold it to Mark Friedenberg and now Mark Friedenberg’s son, Neil has it.
Anna: Very good. Well, thank you Steve, so much for sharing with us the history of the paddle.
Steve: Yeah, you’re welcome.
It is so good to hear this story. Pickleball started as a cottage industry and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. If you have a good story about the history of pickleball, just shoot me an email, email@example.com.