Pickleball is a net court game gaining momentum as one of America’s fastest growing sports. It is a paddle sport that easily accommodates players of all ages and ability levels, known as “a game for everyone.” It is supported by more than 2.5 million players at present.

The game was invented in 1965 on Brainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington. Three fathers created the game to interest their children who were bored with traditional sports.

Why the name Pickleball? There are a couple stories so pick one. One of the originator’s wives was reminded of the pickle boat in a crew where the oarsmen were chosen from leftovers of other boats and likened that to this new activity with its combination of different sports. Another originator credited their dog Pickles who chased the ball and ran off with it.

A paddle is used with a plastic ball that has perforated holes, like a wiffle ball. The paddle is smaller than a tennis racquet but larger than a ping pong paddle. It is light, typically made of aluminum or graphite. There are indoor and outdoor ball versions with different hole sizes.

Parks and Recreation will have equipment that can be loaned if folks want to try the sport before investing in personal gear.

It is a fun sport that combines the elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Singles or doubles can be played. We have heard from the senior crowd who migrate to southern destinations like Arizona, Texas and Florida in the winter time that it is a popular elder sport. People in wheelchairs can even able play Pickleball.

The game is a lifelong sport that has been introduced to local high school students in physical education classes. It is always good to be learning recreation activities that can be played for a lifetime.

We try to develop all recreation facilities with multipurpose use in mind and are pleased it is played often on the indoor Community Center courts, presently taped and soon-to-be painted. When the outdoor Chahinkapa Park tennis courts were renovated, Pickleball lines were included.

The court dimensions are identical to badminton doubles or 20-feet-by-44-feet. The net height is 36 inches on the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle.

Pickleball has other unique terminology like the kitchen (non-volley zone 7-feet from the net on both sides) and poach (in doubles, to cross over into your partner’s area to make a play on the ball).

Only the serving side may score a point. Play ends when one side commits a fault, just like tennis. The first side scoring 11 points, leading by at least two points, wins the game. Tournament games may choose to play to 15 or 21 points and rotate sides at eight or 11 total points.

There is an opportunity for local recreation enthusiasts to learn more about Pickleball. After all, the best way to learn is by doing,   

Janet Gagelin and Ben Fink are offering beginner lessons at Chahinkapa Park tennis courts from 6-8 p.m. on May Wednesday, 9 and Thursday, May 10. 

Just show up. Maybe soon you will be playing Pickleball with relish.


Wayne Beyer is the director of Wahpeton Parks and Rec


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