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.
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.
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.