By Doug Comer
From the World of Parks and Recreation
Quietly, pickleball has emerged as one of the fastest-growing sports across the country. I know, this is not hot off the press news, but this game has opened its range from young to old, and equal to golf, it is definitely one of the sports that no matter the age, you can play.
To give those an idea who have never played, just imagine playing tennis on a smaller court with a smaller racket but use the strategies that you find when playing ping-pong. The rules take a little time to get used to, but once you do, let the competition begin.
Currently, I am a newbie but hooked on the game. Gym teachers have taught the game for decades, and the parks department even brought the sport as part of the life-time sports enrichment during our outdoor adventures program. The game is a workout too.
Now that I have piqued your interest, on to the rules of the game:
The game is most commonly played as doubles and the court is reduced in size compared to a tennis court. To start the game, the serve must be determined either by honor, guessing a number, or playing even/odds. The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is struck and contact with the ball must not be made above the waist. Just like tennis, the serve must make it into the back serving box diagonal to where the server begins play for it to be legal.
After the serve, the return must be struck after the bounce and the same applies after the return crosses the net to the opponent’s side. From there, the goal is for the ball to bounce twice or place the ball where your opponent cannot return. It is a game of finesse and power, just depending on your situation.
Scoring points only happens when the team is serving the ball. Games normally go to 11, and you have to win by at least two points. Before each serve, you announce the score and who is serving. At the beginning, there is just one serve by the team, and once there is a “fault” the other team has two chances to accumulate points. For example, to open the match, the server says “0-0-2.” That allows everyone to know the score and who the server is. Pretty similar to ping pong scoring. You are allowed only one serve unlike tennis.
Here is the caveat to playing this game: there is a non-volley zone, otherwise known as the “kitchen.” This area is only seven feet on both sides of the net, and volleying is prohibited within the area. The rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone. If you smash a shot, and your momentum takes you into that zone, then you have committed a fault and lose the point or the serve. The only way to step into the zone is if the ball actually bounces into the area. This is when players try to dink or dunk the ball with soft shots performed on purpose.
As mentioned previously, the rule for faults is any action that stops play because of the rule violation. If you are the receiving team and you commit a fault, then the serving team gets a point, and if the serving team violates, then it is a loss of serve or a side out.
The easiest thing to do is get online and watch some YouTube videos about the rules to see how the game is played because it will be easier to understand. Locally, there are plenty of places to play this game. When the weather is right, you will see a packed house at Veterans Park, and during the cold or windy days, you can make a trek to the Bridge in Bridgeport and see the basketball courts being transformed into pickleball courts.
If interested in to getting involved, you can find a pickleball group on Facebook and simply send them a message, and they welcome new players to the game.