TR Robertson – According to Brandon Mackie, co-founder of Pickleheads (www.pickleheads.com) “Pickleballs popularity exploded during the pandemic when many Americans were looking for responsible ways to socialize and stay active. Pickleball is a sport for all ages. Anyone from 5 to 95 can play and have fun.” Pickleball is actively played by close to 1,000 people in Vista, according to Jason Tinling, an active pickleball player and a Level 2 Pickleball Referee. Jason said the majority of people follow the games and locations on Facebook. Public courts are available at Brengle Terrace Park and Thibodo Park and other courts are available through membership or fees at Vista Tennis Club and Ocean Hills Country Club. There are 11 courts at Melba Bishop Recreation Center in Oceanside and 12 courts at Castle Creek Country Club in Gopher Canyon. Innovation Park in San Marcos also has Pickleball courts available. Some of the locations might have fees to use the courts or require membership in the facility.
The history of the beginning of Pickleball goes back to a summer day in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington, when Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum had returned from a day of golf and found their families complaining about how bored they were. It is said Joel Pritchard grabbed some ping pong paddles and wiffleballs and the three, along with their families, began “knocking” the wiffleballs around. Having fun doing this, they continued to build on the sport, added a few rules and by 1972 Pickleball, Inc. had been established. There are several stories about the name Pickleball. One story says Joan Pritchard says it is a reference to the thrown together leftover non-starters in the “pickleboat” for crew races and the initial game was thrown together with whatever was found on that day in 1965. According to Barney McCallum, the name Pickleball comes from Joel Pritchard’s dog, named “Pickle” and the wiffleballs the group used.
According to the latest statistics close to 36.5 million people in the U.S. participate in Pickleball. California, Texas, and Florida have the highest number of participants and the average age for those playing is 38 years of age. Close to 10,320 pickleball courts are available for games. The United States of America Pickleball Association has 53,000 members and is the governing body for Pickleball offering official rules for the sport and tournaments around the nation. Interest in the sport has grown 467% over the past 5 years according to the latest study. The top professionals in the sport are Ben Johns from Maryland and Anna Leigh Waters from Florida.
The initial financial outlay for the sport is relatively small. On the Amazon website Pickleball paddles are available for as low as $19.99 from Activator or $29.99 from Asbocer to $69.98 from Uteeqe. Most come with carry bags and balls. Specific shoes for pickleball range from $64.95 to $119.95. Portable nets are even available for $129.99. A while back, several neighbors in my subdivision set up a temporary pickleball court in their cul-de-sac. One neighbor is even in the process of building a pickleball court in his backyard, turning his former putting green into a pickleball court.
When I asked Jason how to get involved in games at the public courses, he responded with the following procedure most follow. “Both Vista park locations are open play for the most part, meaning show up and start a game or wait in line to step on to a court with a completed game. The dynamics of this change depend on how many players are waiting. Less than 8 players and the winning team stays on to be challenged, more than 8, both teams come off and two new teams come on. There are some individuals who offer classes through the city, and they do reserve courts and have priority.” Jason also said there are a few semi-organized groups at local parks with regular play times. He said one group plays from 7-11 am every day at Brengle Terrace and another group plays from 4-8:30 pm at Thibodo and a 4-8 pm group on Mondays and Wednesdays at Brengle Terrace. I asked if the City of Vista plans on adding any additional courts at any of the parks and he said they have reached out to the city to convert one of the tennis courts into a pickleball court, but no action is planned to do this that he is aware of. Occasionally you hear about tournaments that are offered around San Diego County. One tournament recently promoted on KUSI Television is the Drew Brees Whispering Angel Celebrity Pickleball Tournament at the Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Club in Encinitas, part of the Del Mar Food and Wine Festival. The proceeds are used to help finance raising funds for food for Feeding San Diego. Information available at www.delmar.wine/drew-brees.
The Pickleball court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, 22 feet long on each side. Within the 22-foot section of each side a 7-foot section is the non-volley line to the net. This area is called the kitchen. The net height is 36 inches on the sides and 34 inches in the middle. As far as some of the basic rules, there are two types of shots, ground strokes hit off the bounce and volleys hit out of the air. Serves are diagonal with the right side serving first. The serve must be underhand and can be hit out of the air or dropped and hit off the bounce. Faults occur when the shot hits out of bounds, the serve lands in the kitchen of the shot hits into the net and doesn’t go over the net. There is no volley in the kitchen, but you can hit groundstrokes in the kitchen from a dink shot. The pickleball must bounce on both sides before the team can volley and you only win points on your serve. Doubles play is the most popular way to play. If so, both players serve in turn. The first team to 11 points wins and you must win by 2. The starting team in position 2 begins play. Players call out the score and position, for example at the beginning the server would say 0-0-2. All rules can be found on websites like www.usapickleball.org.
Stopping by Brengle Terrace one day found friends Beth Robins, Heide Clay Mingwhei Chen and Sheri Motyl playing a fast-paced doubles match. After their match the foursome shared some feelings about why they liked Pickleball so much. Sheri said she liked the fast action of the game and the strategy of Pickleball. She also said Pickleball is a quick-thinking game. Both Sheri and Beth said the main thing they liked about Pickleball is the social aspect of the game. All four agreed they have made many new friends since they began playing Pickleball. Beth has been playing for four years, Heide two years, Mingwhei five years and Sheri ten years. They also wished there were more Pickleball courts in the City of Vista.
If you are thinking about picking up pickleball as a sports pastime you should be aware that there are some injuries that can occur you may not be aware of or don’t think about. Like any sport, because of the fast paced, quick movement nature of some of the Pickleball games, sprained ankles are a possibility. Knee injuries can also happen. In speaking with Jacob Barrack, owner of Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Wellness Center, located at 115 Main St. in Downtown Historic Vista, he said they have treated sprained knees, sprained ankles and ACL rehab from injuries that happened on the Pickleball court. You do need to be in fairly decent physical shape to play Pickleball. It’s always best to ease into any new sport and having a good pair of shoes designed for Pickleball is important. Don’t overdo it when starting out and learning the correct rules will help in knowing the finer points of the game.
But above all, Have Fun.