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Pickleball? What’s that?

Pickleball? What’s that?
During a doubles match, a player lunges for the ball, which is made of plastic and resembles a whiffle ball.

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Wilson County News
July 13, 2011
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Find out July 23 in Floresville!

Pickleball has been described as a “craze sweeping the nation,” though many in South Texas have never heard of it. The name is certainly interesting, but what exactly is pickleball? To answer that, think “tennis,” played on a smaller court, while using large “ping pong” paddles to hit something akin to a “whiffle ball.” If it sounds like fun to you, make plans to attend a live demonstration and clinic at the Floresville Event Center Saturday, July 23, beginning at 10 a.m. The clinic will last about two hours, and those in attendance will have a chance to experience play for themselves.

The sport’s inception took place in Washington state during the mid-1960s. Since that time, Pickleball has spread to all 50 states and Canada, and is now becoming an international sport. The USA Pickleball Association was formed in 1984 to “perpetuate the growth” of pickleball. The game was included in the Huntsman World Senior Games for the first time in 2003, and the National Senior Games Champion Festival in 2008.

While played in a manner similar to tennis, it differs in several ways, including the method of service. Unlike tennis, a serve in pickleball must be hit underhand, with the ball contacting the paddle below the waist. Each team must then play its first shot off the bounce. After the ball has bounced once on each side of the court, the teams can hit the ball at will -- either out of midair, or off the bounce. According to the USA Pickleball Association, this is done to eliminate any serve or volley advantage, and “prolongs the rallies.”

From the net, which stands at 36 inches at the ends and 34 inches in the center, to a line marked 7 feet behind it, is the section of the court known as the “non-volley zone” or “kitchen.” The rules of the game prohibit a player from hitting the ball while standing in this zone, unless the ball has first hit the ground. So, no, standing at the net and crushing the ball back into your opponents’ court is not allowed.

Games are played to 11 points, and a team must serve in order to score a point. Think volleyball before the advent of “rally scoring.” A team must win by 2 points, but this rule can be waived to speed things for tournament play.

Other than that, there isn’t much to it. Advocates and participants of the game bill it as an activity for children and adults of all ages and athletic abilities.

“Once you try it, you get hooked,” said Ed Beyster, one of the San Antonio area ambassadors for the USA Pickleball Association. “It’s easy to play. You can learn to hit the ball well your first day. It’s just a lot of fun.”

As for the name, that is simple enough. It turns out that the ball originally used by the game’s creator, Joel Pritchard, in 1965 belonged to his dog -- Pickles.

For more information and a live pickleball demonstration, visit the Lauro G. De Leon III Floresville Event Center July 23. Admission is free and open to the public.

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