Pickleball: Friend or Foe?

Prelude

I first encountered pickleball when playing tennis nearly 10-years ago at a public park.  There were two courts on an upper terrace and one on a lower terrace at this particular park.  My opponent and I took the first available court and were on the upper terrace.  When the lower court cleared, a man walked out with some sort of home brewed ball machine that was shooting what looked like wiffle balls at him.  He was hitting them with a solid wooden racquet.  I had no idea what he was doing but found the sound of the wooden racquet to be a bit distracting.  When he finished, we were at a changeover.  I asked him, what sport he was practicing.  He said, “Pickleball.”  That was the first and last I heard of pickleball for a few years.


Most tennis players I know have one of two reactions to pickleball.  Some think it is a good sport for transitioning out of tennis.  Others seem to be mildly offended when asked about it.

Territorial Disputes

I have seen cases in which my local parks system has resurfaced tennis courts only to find half of the courts are gone and replaced by pickleball and mini-soccer courts.  I know that placing 10 and Under Tennis lines on a tennis court is okay with the USTA while placing pickleball lines on a tennis court can invalidate that court for USTA matches.

Continental Possibilities

I spoke to a junior player who has had a lot of success at the USTA and high school levels.  He said that pickleball is a lot of fun and that it does not negatively impact his tennis game due to using the continental grip at all times in pickleball.  If pickleball is not just a transition sport for people feeling too slow to play singles or doubles, but is rather a method for helping younger tennis players to feel more at home with a continental grip at the net, it could be a sport in which tennis and pickleball players cross-pollinate.  This to me is the key to a good relationship between tennis and pickleball: players of each sport find the other sport to be an activity worth doing/trying.

Hopefully, people who enjoy pickleball will become more intrigued with tennis.  From a health standpoint, racquet sports are found to be very good for longevity.  If pickleball becomes and introduction to tennis for some while tennis players brought up with extreme grips and a mild phobia of the net improve their reflexes and grip versatility, then tennis should welcome pickleball’s emergence on the scene.

PS – I will give pickleball a whirl in the coming weeks and let you know what I thought of the experience.

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