u3a - Pickleball

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Pickleball is a relatively new ball sport in the UK. It fosters mobility, fitness and good health, it

can be competitive .. and is always fun 


Its rather strange and slightly comic name has two origins; one true and the other humorous. The fun story about the name is that the inventors of the game had a dog called Pickles and it kept chasing after the ball when it went off court. However, it seems the name pickleball originated before Pickles was around. Instead the true origin of the name is that the game’s inventors were themselves nearing the end of their ball playing careers in tennis and badminton. So they called their new game after the pickle boat. This is the last fishing boat in the fleet to make it back into harbour and whose catch would likely be sold for pickling as the earlier boats had captured all the keen, fresh fish buyers. The dog story is a more enjoyable one but we can’t change history.  




Pickleball’s unique selling point is that it can be learned in minutes without extensive coaching yet, once started, playing skills can be progressively and continually improved to a high level of performance. There are a few full time professional players these days but more importantly there are legions of happy recreational players who enjoy the game at their own level while enjoying the challenge to improve as far as possible.

Pickleball began in the USA in the 1960s as an alternative to tennis and badminton

that people of all ages can play together. Now it’s the fastest growing sport in North America with over three million players.Pickleball has had a slow start in the UK but is growing fast: 10 years ago there were almost no clubs; today there are at least 100 with 1500 registered players and more joining every month.  Several u3a groups in the UK already have pickleball as a group activity. 

Pickleball is played either indoors or outdoors as singles or doubles. It’s played on a court similar in size and markings to a badminton court but players often use an actual badminton court or mark out pickleball lines on a tennis court. Players hit a light plastic ball across a net which is similar in height to a tennis net using lightweight “paddles" roughly double the size of table tennis bats.

The rules have been evolved to limit aggressive play and to encourage placement and tactics above strength and power. This makes the game perfectly suited to any age group but particularly for older players since it can be learned quickly, games last minutes rather than hours and skill is the winning weapon.

pickleball 2



 Other helpful resources 

  • The basic rules are described simply here on Pickleball England Rules page 
  • Some helpful coaching tips, including video clips, to get you started:  Pickleball England Coaching page 
  • Almost everything you could wish to know about pickleball can be found by browsing the Pickleball England website 
  • How to play pickleball - a two minute video with explanatory written paragraphs

  • The Playpickleball website has plenty of resources on Rules, History, How To Play, Scoring and more.

  • An article on the BBC website “Pickleball: the racket sport experiencing a pandemic boom” - all about pickleball, its attractions and and how it is growing quickly . 
  • There are very many YouTube videos showing pickleball matches at all levels from basic amateurs up to full professionals in tournaments. Try going to YouTube.com and enter “USAPA Championships 2020 Mixed Doubles 55+”.  If you would also like to see the top professionals playing on YouTube enter  “USAPA Championships 2020 Doubles Pro” and watch some amazing, not to say daunting, match play.