It may be the unusual name, or the fact that just about anyone can play, but whatever it is, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America.
“I think the name kind of draws people in and then once they get out here, they just love it,” pickleball player Brent Gingerich said.
A combination of badminton, tennis and ping pong, the sport has its own set of unique rules and equipment.
“The court is set up a little bit like a tennis court, but it’s much shorter and much less wide so you’re not able to just drive the ball at will,” pickleball player Mike Bernardo explained.
Instead of rackets, pickleball is played with paddles and whiffle balls.
“It’s got a core inside it that makes it play like a ping pong paddle almost when you hit it,” Bernardo said.
Players serve underhand and both the serve and the return must bounce before you can start volleying. While there are no pickles in pickleball, there is a kitchen.
“They also have an area in front of the net called the kitchen,” Bernardo explained. “In that area you’re not allowed to hit a ball out of the air or volley. You have to let it bounce before.”
The sport is easy enough for beginners to learn, but can quickly develop into a fast-paced and competitive game. Beyond the competition, there’s one thing that everyone can agree on.
“It’s a good comradery sport. It attracts people from all walks of life,” pickleball player Felicia Tatum said.
The Central Arkansas Pickleball Facebook page has 1,400 followers and counting.
“If you come out here on a nice day, especially in the summertime, there will be 20, 30 or 40 people waiting to play,” Gingerich said.
Pickleball player Brent Gingerich said there are a lot of different theories behind where the name pickleball came from.
“Supposedly, the people who invented the sport had a dog named Pickles and so they named it after their dog,” Gingerich said.
While the origin of the name may be up for debate, pickleball player Felicia Tatum said one thing is certain.
“Once you start playing it, you will become addicted!” Tatum said.
Kanis Park in Little Rock has several designated pickleball courts. With the game growing in popularity, the city installed lights so people can play before the sun comes up and late into the night.
For more information, visit the Central Arkansas Pickleball Facebook page.