I couldn’t help but read with a smile when Allegan columnist E.C. Stoppel posed a question to random people (in this week’s Allegan County News) as to whether they liked pickleball or not. Some younger people answered that it was an “old man’s sport” while several older respondents had not tried the game.
I smiled because I am an avid pickleball enthusiast. I try to play as often as possible and find it keeps my old bones limber and my stamina- well it’s better than if I didn’t play.
My girlfriend and I used to play a lot of tennis. She is a very good athlete and knows her way around a tennis court better than I, thus our matches were always quite even, and the workout was invigorating. Unfortunately, one fateful day when took to the court after a mild rain and I slipped on a wet spot. My knee hasn’t been right since.
However, we were turned on to pickleball about a year ago. We found it to be much like tennis but the court was only half the size and you use a wiffle ball instead of a tennis ball. We found with pickleball the volleys were much longer and you didn’t spend half your time chasing after the tennis ball. It seemed more practical and less prone to injury.
And yes I’m old, and many of the people playing pickleball are seniors, but I must confess I enjoy the nuances of the game. In tennis, the serve can be quite critical, but in pickleball, the wiffle ball won’t go nearly as fast as a tennis ball no matter how hard you attempt to hit it.
And yes you can rush the net in either sport to attempt to spike a shot. In tennis you are dead meat if your opponent can return your volley behind you. Not so much in pickleball. You have time to return to your back position.
Moreover, I bet most of you don’t know there is a Professional Pickleball League, made up of younger athletes, who tour from city to city. The league is sponsored by Carvana with a single-season prize money purse of $5.5 million. Man that’s a lot of scratch for batting a wiffle ball back and forth.
Another interesting fact is that the average age of pickleball players is not 70, nor 60, but 35. So anyone that says only the senior set play the game are clearly out of touch. The game has simply blossomed into one of the most popular sports in the world, mostly because people of all ages can play it.
So I encourage one and all to give it a try. As I said you don’t have to be a professional, to have a good volley. Just hitting the wiffle ball back and forth provides sufficient exercise and allows you and your partner to enjoy the outdoors.
I know my first inclination was to stick to tennis. Hitting a wiffle ball didn’t seem like much fun to me, but I was wrong. I don’t think I will ever go back to tennis. Pickleball is too much fun.