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What’s the Big Dill about Pickleball?

Are you looking for a fun, low-impact sport perfectly suited to your senior lifestyle? Look no further than pickleball!

Pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport, transforming the daily routines of many older adults — and for good reason. Offering an energizing, community-building experience, for many, it’s not just a game, but a lifestyle. It’s easy to learn, gets people moving and is social and fun. The ranks of pickleball players have almost doubled to 8.9 million participants in 2022, from 4.8 million players the year before, according to a 2023 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Unlike more physically demanding sports like tennis, pickleball offers a more relaxed pace, but still brings out the thrill of competition and benefits of physical activity. But don’t let the sport’s quirky name fool you — pickleball is as serious or as fun as you make it, allowing for both casual play and tournament-level intensity.

Courts are popping up everywhere — at local schools and parks, health clubs, five-star resorts and retirement complexes. Pickleball is so popular, it’s got its own magazine, “Pickleheads.” Pickle-themed restaurants are opening up alongside courts serving up dinner and as some aficionados say, “dinks” for “hydration” afterwards.

What is pickleball?

Often described as a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, pickleball doesn’t need as much practice — which also is what's made it so popular in recent years. Pickleball courts are about the third of the size of a tennis court. Rules for the game are similar to tennis, but with a slightly shorter net. It’s played with a flat paddle, similar to an oversized ping-pong paddle, with a light-weight perforated plastic ball (similar to a whiffle ball.)

Pickleball has been around since the 1960s, founded by two dads in Seattle with bored kids to entertain. “Pickles” was the name of a family dog. But it was the 2020 pandemic and the resulting social restrictions that sent pickleball’s population soaring.

How you can get started

Finding a place to play is fairly easy, but caveat, courts are crowded. Check out your local YMCA, park district, community centers, neighborhood parks and schools, or online for Facebook groups in your area.

Want to learn more about pickleball firsthand or improve your skills? Practice and play at Québec’s idyllic Glen Sutton Lodge, or learn from IPTPA-certified Pickleball professionals in the gorgeous setting of the Blue Ridge Mountains


What do you think? Are you a “picklehead” yet? Join the conversation — and the community — on Facebook.