Pickleball: The Perfect Sport for Florida Seniors

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Pickleball: The Perfect Sport for Florida Seniors

Thumbnail image from Pixabay

By Rebecca Fending

As September is National Self-Improvement Month, now is the time to broaden your horizons and find even more things that you enjoy! What better way to do that than getting out and moving your body while meeting new friends?

Pickleball is a popular pastime activity for many Florida seniors. It’s not quite as intense as tennis can be, but pickleball is great, light exercise for those looking to just get their body moving. This sport is like the younger sister of Tennis, and the BFF cousin of badminton. In pickleball, two or four players use solid paddles to hit a wiffle-like ball over a net.

Pickleball Origins

Believe it or not, pickleball is a sport that was invented and developed within recent history. Some of us may even remember its invention!

Developed in 1965, pickleball was created in Seattle, Washington, by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington, and businessman Bill Bell. After returning home from summer golf, the men looked to entertain the restless kids at home. Looking for a family-inclusive game, badminton was their first option. The men and children lacked the right materials to play the game officially, so their improvisation skills were put to the test. Table tennis paddles were used to bat at a perforated plastic ball. The ball was hit over the badminton net. From there, the game was born.

But what about the funny name? According to the Onix Pickleball website, the game got its name from Pritchard’s wife, Joan. Pickleball’s unique combination of various sports reminded her of, “… the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of the other boats.”

The Rules

As with any sport, the rules are crucial to the game. Pickleball is played as follows, according to USAPickleball.org:

The Basics

  • Pickleball takes place on a badminton-sized court: 20′ x 44′
  • The game is played either as doubles (two players per team) or singles; doubles is most common and a great way to make friends in your area.
  • The same size playing area and rules are used for both singles and doubles.

How to Serve

  • The server’s arm must be moving in an upward arc when the ball is struck.
  • Paddle contact with the ball must not be made above the waist level.
  • The head of the paddle must not be above the highest part of the wrist at contact.
  • A “drop serve” is also permitted, in which case none of the elements above apply.
  • At the time the ball is struck, the server’s feet may not touch the court or outside the imaginary extension of the sideline or centerline and at least one foot must be behind the baseline on the playing surface or the ground behind the baseline.
  • The serve is made diagonally crosscourt and must land within the confines of the opposite diagonal court.
  • Only one serve attempt is allowed per server.

Serving Sequence

  • Both players on the serving doubles team have the opportunity to serve and score points until they commit a fault *(except for the first service sequence of each new game).
  • The first serve of each side-out is made from the right/even court.
  • If a point is scored, the server switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left/odd court.
  • As subsequent points are scored, the server continues switching back and forth until a fault is committed and the first server loses the serve.
  • When the first server loses the serve the partner then serves from their correct side of the court (except for the first service sequence of the game*).
  • The second server continues serving until his team commits a fault and loses the serve to the opposing team.
  • Once the service goes to the opposition (at side out), the first serve is from the right/even court and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults.
  • In singles the server serves from the right/even court when his or her score is even and from the left/odd when the score is odd.
    • *At the beginning of each new game only one partner on the serving team has the opportunity to serve before faulting, after which the service passes to the receiving team.

Scoring

  • Points are scored only by the serving team.
  • Games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2.
  • Tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by 2.
  • When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right-side court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9…) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.

Bouncing Rules

  • When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce before returning, and then the serving team must let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.
  • After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).
  • The two-bounce rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and extends rallies.

Non-Volley Zone

  • The non-volley zone is the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net.
  • Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone. This rule prevents players from executing smashes from a position within the zone.
  • It is a fault if, when volleying a ball, the player steps on the non-volley zone, including the line and/or when the player’s momentum causes them or anything they are wearing or carrying to touch the non-volley zone including the associated lines.
  • It is a fault if, after volleying, a player is carried by momentum into or touches the non-volley zone, even if the volleyed ball is declared dead before this happens.
  • A player may legally be in the non-volley zone any time other than when volleying a ball.
  • The non-volley zone is commonly referred to as “the kitchen.”

Lines and Faults

  • A ball contacting any part of any line, except the non-volley zone line on a serve, is considered “in.”
  • A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.
  • A fault is any action that stops play because of a rule violation.
  • A fault by the receiving team results in a point for the serving team.
  • A fault by the serving team results in the server’s loss of serve or side out.

For a full guide with images, visit pickleball.com/rules-how-to-play-pickleball, or usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/how-to-play.

Image from AARP

What You Need to Get Started

So, we’ve intrigued you? Here’s what you’ll need to get started on your path to being a Pickleball champion:

  1. Find a pickleball court near you. Below are a few courts and court-finding resources for your area.
  2. Get a paddle and ball. Surprisingly, a set of two paddles and a ball isn’t all that expensive. You can find a pickleball starter kit at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Amazon. If you need the whole set up (including the net system, four paddles, four balls, court chalk and the rule book), you can get it at Pickleball Central.
  3. Grab a friend. To play the game, you need at least two people. If you really want to make it a party, take three friends to the court.

Pickleball Courts in Your Area

These are just a few courts in each of Lifestyles After 50 readers’ areas. If you don’t see one you’re interested in, feel free to search for a place nearest you online with a Google or Bing search!

Tampa Bay

  • Riverhills Pickleball Courts: Located in Temple Terrace, you can join the Temple Terrace Pickleball Club for free to have access to these courts. Visit their site here for more information.
  • Julian B Lane Riverfront Park: Best for daytime pickleballing, these courts overlook a scenic riverside park. Find more park info here.
  • NorthLakes Pickleball: Located north of Tampa, these outdoor courts are said to have great lighting and are completely free. Learn more at the complex’s website.

Lake/Marion Counties

  • Chula Vista Recreation Center: Located in Lady Lake, this recreation center is very popular with active seniors. You may even be able to show up solo and find your way into a match. Explore more here.
  • Clermont Arts & Recreation Center: A local favorite for pickleball, this center is perfect for hot or rainy days. Get more information on their website.
  • Veterans Memorial Park: More than just a great community park, this Winter Garden park also has great outdoor pickleball courts with restrooms close by.

Sarasota/Manatee Counties

  • Newtown Estates Park: Located in northern Sarasota, this park is highly reviewed for its pickleball courts. It’s friendly for both competitive players and newbies. Learn more at the park’s website.
  • Fruitville Park: Located in, you guessed it, Fruitsville, this park has four outdoor pickleball courts. Find out more at the park website.
  • Longwood Park: A great place for indoor pickleball, this Sarasota park is welcomes all skill levels and has excellent staff. Read more here.

Southwest Region

  • East Naples Community Park: This place holds the yearly Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, the premier pickleball tournament in the world. This park is a mecca for all things pickleball, and newcomers are always welcome. Get more information here.
  • Gilchrist Park: Located in Punta Gorda, this park is very popular for pickleball. Waterfront with lots of open areas, learn more about this park at their website.
  • Pickleplex: For those in Charlotte County, this is THE place to get your pickleball fix! With brand-new pickleball courts, this ‘plex is a local favorite. Find out more at the Picklepex website.

Suncoast Region

  • Brooks Community Park: Located in Lee County, this park is well liked by pickleballers for its nice courts and clean atmosphere. Read more about the park on the website.
  • Camelot Park: This Cape Coral park has a great walking trail AND wonderful pickleball courts. Get a full day of exercise at Camelot Park, but be sure to pack water and a few snacks. Learn more about the park on the website.
  • Highland Recreation Complex: This Largo complex is a local favorite for spring and fall. Highland Recreation Complex has badminton, pickleball and tennis courts available for use. Check out the website for more information.

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