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Pickleball by Karen Parrish

01/01/2017 09:18PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: Pickleball [5 Images] Click any image to expand.


Chances are, you’ve heard of Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the nation. Now that it is being played right here On the Coast, you might as well learn all about it and join in on the fun.

You probably heard of Pickleball only in recent years, and it’s true it was a well-kept secret until 2008 when the game hit the senior market.  But Pickleball was actually invented in 1965 in Washington by a congressman and his pals to entertain their families one summer day.  

After playing golf, Washington State congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA (near Seattle) to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court, so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment but could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first, they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, they found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and lowered the net to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game the whole family could play together.

Pickleball is the sweet game with a sour name.  The sport is thought to be named after the family cocker spaniel, Pickles, who chased stray balls and hid in the bushes.  It can be played indoors or out on a 20” x 44” court for both singles and doubles. The net is 36 inches high, 34 at the center. The paddles are composite or wooden, about twice the size of a ping-pong paddle.  The ball is similar to a wiffle ball but differs between outdoors and indoors.  Indoor balls are softer and have larger holes, while the outdoor balls have smaller holes so as to not catch the wind and are harder which allows for a greater bounce on outdoor courts. 

Pickleball is for all ages and all skill levels.  Because boomers find the game less physically demanding than tennis and a fun way to stay fit and make friends, it is mostly played in retirement communities.  But as the craze continues, youngsters are taking the game by storm and are now on the forefront of a lot of major tournaments.  It is becoming increasingly popular in school P.E. programs as well as after-school programs.  Pickleball is easy to learn and can develop into a fast-paced competitive game.

Virtually every state and Canadian province has Pickleball venues.  The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) compiles the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of places to play, which increases by approximately 76 per month for a total of 4,668 as of Nov 2016.  Currently the USAPA is tracking over 200,000 pickleball players and 12,668 pickleball courts in North America.   The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) 2015 Participant Report shows there are currently 2.46 million players.  It is estimated that by 2018 there will be over 8 million players.

Last August, the Emerald Coast Pickleball Championships were held at the Destin Life Center and had 91 players from nine different states.  "We have a lot of people that travel through the area that stop and play," said Karen Parrish, tournament director and USAPA Atlantic South Regional Director.  She has seen this tournament grow from 46 players to almost 100 in just two years.  Karen is also the Emerald Coast Pickleball Club (ECPC) President.  After the tournament, ECPC was formed as a way to connect Pickleball friends on the Emerald Coast from Pensacola to Tallahassee.  Visit the website at

The Destin United Methodist Church and Destin Life Center will host its annual Emerald Coast Pickleball Classic February 2-4, 2017.  There will be divisions ranging from Open (competitive), 30+, 50+, 60+ and 70+.   There will be Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles.  Come out and join in on the fun.  Contact the Destin Life Center at 850-837-2021 or check out the Pickleball Destin Facebook page for updated times of play.

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Health+Fitness, Community Pickleball Destin United Methodist Church Joel Pritchard Bill Bell Barney McCallum Ping Pong USAPA USA Pickleball Association Sports and Fitness Industry Association SFIA Emerald Coast Pickleball


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