pickle ball Have you heard about it? It’s that incredibly popular tennis-and-ping-pong hybrid that everyone plays Ellen DeGeneres (“I’m obsessed with it”) for most residents of Naples, Florida, it seems. (One 60-seat center bills itself as “the pickleball capital of the world.”)
As if Pickleball wasn’t hot enough, here’s something else to add to the buzz. America’s liveliest, most talked about game is really good for too rhyming.
So say Penn ownership, co-creator with his wife Kim, of a viral rap video called “The Pickleball Song”. The Holdernesses recently rose to fame as winners The amazing race on CBS. But before that, they were just a hilarious couple of YouTubers who mined their married and family life for comedy gold and a billion views.
In the Pickleball video, Penn leans into the camera to rap, “My wife, yeah, she used to be cold / But her pickleball’s really big now dill!”
Kim’s right that it’s a really big, uh, deal. According to USA Pickleball, the sport is growing like a cucumber vine, growing an average of 11.5 percent per year since 2017, reaching 4.8 million pickleballs in the US alone. As Penn Holderness might rap, “This pickle works.”
If you haven’t experienced the sport, stop by and listen to any of the 9,524 pickleball-enabled parks, community centers and athletic facilities across the United States plink, plink, plink, plink Sound of oversized whistling balls ricocheting off composite paddles.
What Jerry His field What was once joked about tennis applies even more to pickleball: It’s “basically ping-pong, and the players stand on the table.” But four 20-by-44-foot pickleball courts fit in the space needed for the sport of kings. Plus, it’s easy to pick up, requires minimal athletic ability, and has its own fun vocabulary. So maybe there are new kings on the pitch.
We can’t all bat like Roger or slash like Serena, but pretty much anyone can play pickleball. “A man I played against the other day had a limp,” he says Ann Farrell Pulliam, 55, a recent pickleball convert in Vienna, Virginia. “So I asked him, ‘Did you hurt your leg?’ He tells me, ‘No, I have Parkinson’s.’ I felt terrible. Then his team totally killed us.”
Pulliam is a great case study in pickleball’s popularity. She lost her husband to cancer in June 2021, just before their 30th wedding anniversary. She hardly left the house for months, except to attend her grief group. “A friend called to check on me,” she recalls. “He said to me, ‘Get out of bed. Take a shower. Put some clothes on. Go play pickleball.” So I went on Facebook and asked if anyone had heard of the game. Now I play five times a week and my phone calls have doubled. It saved my life.”
One reason for Pulliam’s changed outlook: The Miscellaneous The incessant sound you hear on a pickleball court is laughter. “The first time I laughed since my husband died was at a pickleball court,” says Pulliam. “You have to remember the fun rules about when to rotate the pitch and all four of us have to remember the score.” It’s mostly a doubles game, which quadruples the hilarity.
And as Pulliam says, virtually everyone is a beginner, which takes the pressure off. This even applies to ben johns, whose biggest claim to fame used to be his status as a hitting partner for his brother on the pro tennis tour. “One day in 2016 I was playing tennis,” he says, “and I heard this funny popping noise from the pickleball court next door. I tried it and thought This game is awesomeespecially because I used to beat my dad the whole time.” Now, as the world’s top professional pickleball player in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, 23-year-old Johns beats a lot of other people too.
Johns, who now owns the ultimate sporting status symbol – his own signature Joola paddle – loves that the sport is young. “Golf has been around for four hundred years, tennis even longer. There is a right way and a wrong way to play them. But Pickleball is still in a period of experimentation. If you come up with something, you grow the sport itself. You can help it grow.”
(scroll to read more)
Why are you sitting there reading? Grab a paddle, a ball and three strangers (who will soon become friends) and make Pickleball your own. But don’t take it to seriously, or you could get thrown off the pitch. It’s just Pickleball, y’all.
Related: 10 Things You Must Bring to the Pickleball Court
How Pickleball was born
Three fathers living on Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965 were tired of hearing their children complain about boredom. So they created a mix of ping-pong, tennis and badminton to quell the tummy ache. It worked.
But what’s with the strange name?
- Theory 1: Because it’s a hybrid of other sports, the wife of one of the game’s creators coined the terms as a reference to the remnants of the second string occupying the “cucumber boat” when rowing.
- Theory 2: “Pickles” was a ball-chasing dog owned by one of the creators and named in her honor.
But even Pickleball’s originators couldn’t agree on where the name came from, and now they’ve moved on to that great place in heaven. So feel free to pitch your own theory.
Also See: 10 Things You Need to Know About Pickleball, the Sport Everyone in the US Is Playing Right Now
How to talk like a pickler
flapjack: With every serve and return, players must bounce the ball before hitting it. These bouncing starters are called flapjacks for some reason.
dill ball: An incoming ball that has bounced once and is therefore available for you to hit.
The kitchen: A 7-foot zone on either side of the net where you are forbidden from hitting the ball unless it bounced first. This rule prevents smashes from the kitchen, which are unfun and dangerous at close range.
Dink shot: An infuriating shot that sees the ball peed from your kitchen into your opponent’s with little hope of a return.
Grandpa! After two bounce hit sequences, players can yell “Grandpa!” to indicate that it’s okay to hit a ball out of the air from now on (unless you’re standing in the kitchen, in which case you’ll need to check your pickleball rules).
Pickled: If you don’t score in a game, you’ve been pickled. But this will remind you: it’s time for cocktail hour with your new pickleball besties. Order a dirty martini with pickle juice.
Related: These celebrities love Pickleball