Pickleball – it’s more than just a game with a funny name

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If you’re the type of person who is active and in-the-know with recreation trends, there’s little doubt that you’ve heard of (and probably played) pickleball. Even if you’re not one of those folks, given the fact that this ball-paddle-net game is the fastest growing sport in America, you’re likely familiar with it. However, did you know that it was invented almost 60 years ago in Washington State as a backyard game for kids and supposedly named after one of the inventors who had a dog named Pickles? How far it has come!

While there are similarities between the more traditional ball, racquet, and net game of tennis, pickleball is decidedly different, from the rules to the unique terminology like “kitchen,” “Bert and Ernie,” “dink,” and “pickle,” of course. The whole glossary is fairly lengthy and takes a bit of time to master, in addition to getting the hang of actual game play!

Pickleball is for everyone! 

Perhaps the best thing about pickleball is its versatility. It can be played by people of all ages and levels of experience. Games can take place outdoors or indoors – you just need a different ball. And, since outdoor pickleball court availability can be more difficult to come by during the more temperate Illinois weather months, some community organizations (like the Naperville Park District) line select tennis courts for pickleball play, thereby expanding the number of locations where the game can be enjoyed. Of course, you can also purchase a pickleball net relatively inexpensively and set it up in your driveway for your own practice or for the kids or grandkids to have fun and burn off some energy during summer break.

How to play

So how does one get started learning the game? First, you need pickleball equipment that consists of a paddle and a ball. While prices vary, it doesn’t cost much to buy an entry level paddle or multi-paddle and ball set to get you started. You also need shoes – comfortable ones. They don’t have to be actual pickleball shoes (yes, those exist) and can be regular gym/court shoes, but they should have good support. You will be chasing the ball around quite a bit when you’re trying to learn the game and your feet will thank you if they are properly outfitted with good footwear. As far as actually learning how to play, take a lesson at a park district (Naperville Park District offers them from time to time) or private pickleball gym, or find someone who knows the game well and can patiently instruct you and give you (many) opportunities to practice.

Playing pickleball at the Naperville Park District

Once you’ve transcended the basics of the game and are looking for friendly play or something a bit more competitive, you’ll be happy to know that the Naperville Park District provides 18 outdoor pickleball courts and additional opportunities to play at its select lined tennis courts. If it’s a beautiful day, you can bet the “pickleballers” will be out in force, and that means there’s a good chance you can hop in the rotation and enjoy some game play. For indoor play at the Park District, the Fort Hill Activity Center offers indoor pickleball hours.

To find the nearest pickleball court in Naperville, visit: www.napervilleparks.org/locations. Hope to see you on the pickleball court soon!