Ever heard of a game called Pickleball? It’s OK. I didn’t either until last week when I received an invite from a TownSquareBuzz reader who saw part one of my Joe Tries series and decided I just had to give it a try. Shortly after posting an article about my first tennis experience, I received an email from Sherri, who told me to come down to Old Settlers Park and participate in a combination of racquetball and volleyball.
“It is one of the fastest growing sports for people over 50,” she wrote. “And it’s also taking off with young people.”
How could I say no? I’m in the latter category now and if I can learn to stop texting while driving, some day I’ll reach the former category. So I made an appointment for Friday afternoon, picked out my finest Mavs shirt, and most importantly didn’t worry about hydrating.
Before I get too much into my first Pickleball experience, here’s what you need to know about the game.
Pickleball is played with teams of two players on each side of the court. The ball must be served over the net underhand and both teams have to play their first shot of the match off the bounce. After this, each team is allowed to either play the ball off the bounce or hit it in the air.
On both sides of the court, there is a seven-foot, non-volley zone where players are prevented from hitting the ball. Both players on the serving team are allowed to serve before the other team gets the chance to serve and only the serving team can score points. Games are played until one team scores 11 points.
That’s pretty much it.
As I mentioned in my last ‘Joe Tries’ article, I never take an arrogant approach to any new sport, no matter how easy it may look or how much I seem to have an edge over my opponent. I mean I’ve never been able to get the hang of ping-pong and I’m not ashamed to say that I can’t even swim. But despite all that, I must confess that when I walked onto that court with people more than twice and even three times my age, I thought I had it made. Part of me even felt like I was taking advantage of these seniors and maybe I should take it easy on them and not the other way around.
Well I quickly learned that Pickleball, although easy to pick up for a beginning player, is a game of shot placement and patience rather than strength or quickness. In other words, these guys and gals had me running all over the court while they pretty much stood still and zipped the ball back and forth over the net just waiting for the opportune moment to put me out of my misery by either lasering the ball past my outstretched paddle or getting me to knock the ball out of bounds myself.
Let’s just say, I got taken to school.
Overall, Pickleball was one of the coolest games I’ve ever played. Before I got started, Sherri told me that the best part of the game was that you get a great workout without even realizing it and she was right. Before I knew it, my shirt was soaked with sweat and I had only played two games.
After winning my first match against a team of ladies, I was put in a game with the men and joined Myron on a team that was already leading by two. This is where I learned the importance of being patient instead of aggressive. There were a few times where the ball was heading out of bounds but rather than let it sail out, I went outside the line to hit the ball over the net set up the other team with a perfect shot to hit the ball to where I should have been standing. It wasn’t long before the game was tied and we eventually lost.
My losing streak continued for the rest of my time at Old Settlers Park. I played on a team with Sherri’s husband, Rick, whose nickname is “The Grasshopper” and even with an expert on my side; we didn’t stand a chance and lost 11-2. Later, I played with Richard, who was easily the best player on the court, and I still lost because, for some reason, I couldn’t hit the ball straight and most of the other teams points came on plays where I hit it out of bounds. So much for “taking it easy on the old people”. I would say I competed pretty well for a newbie but once everyone saw I was getting the hang of the game, they stepped up their play and put my in my place.
I played four games of Pickleball, met some great people in the process, and had an absolute blast. I plan to do a follow-up story later where my fiancé, Kali, will join me in a couples game. Until then, I’m off to try my hand at golf. Wish me luck and enjoy the video at the bottom of the screen.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com
Pickleball Info: Those who are interested can play Pickleball at Old Settler’s Park on Mondays at Friday’s starting at noon. Any age is welcome to play and a $5.00 seasonal pass from the Old Settlers Recreation Center is required.