Health & Medical Lifestyle

Pickleball: What It Is and What It Is Not

Pickleball, What is It?

The Charm of Pickleball

Toc… toc… toc. That’s the subdued sound of a sport called pickleball, the fastest-growing physically active sport in the United States. And why is pickleball more popular today than hyperbole at a Trump rally?

Well, after two years of playing the game regularly, I’ve figured out the true frenzy for this sport, and I’m going to say it loud.

First, it’s because pickleball is NOT TENNIS, and second, it’s a sport FOR SENIORS (and seniors-at-heart)—because it’s not tennis.

Related: Unique Activities for Seniors (Elderly Hobbies and Games)

Why Pickleball Appeals to Seniors

Find Out Why Pickleball is The Best Sport for Seniors

Yes, every day is senior day at the pickleball courts because the game makes retirees—and retiree wannabes–look good and feel good about themselves.

You don’t have to be a skilled athlete or have a youthful body to play and enjoy the game. And this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel like an athlete with a sprightly body.

Have you ever seen a film about a pickleball champion’s tempestuous and heartbreaking rise to competitive glory?

Of course not! This film is not going to be made. Pickleball is NOT TENNIS.

Sure, pickleball in the United States does have its high-powered heavy-hitters who play to win and play in tournaments—Bless their hearts!

But so do tiddlywinks and pick-up sticks– really.

And I speak for the hordes of seniors who play the game simply and simply play it because it’s meant to be a not-so-competitive, “un-extreme” sport.

Because it’s NOT TENNIS.

With pickleball, it’s easier to say and believe that it’s only a game. Toc… toc… toc!

The Basics of Pickleball

Pickleball is played with a funny-looking perforated plastic ball and a small solid paddle on a rather small, hard-surfaced court with a low net.

Tennis is played with a serious-looking bouncy rubber ball and a much larger cross-string racket on a huge court with a higher net.

The plastic pickleball ball surely wasn’t meant to be bounced off a hard surface as the rubber tennis ball is.

Pickleball vs. Tennis: Key Differences

7 Key Differences Between Tennis vs Pickleball (Explained Fast!)

The hard pickleball paddle has a mission similar to that of the non-springy ball with holes and the tiny court with a lower net: less speed and bounce for the ball, less hustling around—and less chance of cardiac arrest–for the players.

The smaller space with the lower net increases your chances of returning the ball when it’s being hit to you.

There’s even a better chance that the ball coming to your side of the net will hit your paddle by accident, that is, through no skilled intention of your own.

Related: Bowling Tips for Seniors (with Video Instructions): Have Fun!

The pickleballers I hang with are constantly declaring that their best shots are luck, not skill.

And I’ve rarely got through a game without having a debate over who was the last player to serve the ball.

How’s that for examples of aggressive competition and senior lucidity?

Social Benefits of Playing Pickleball

The Benefit Analysis of Playing Pickleball Tournaments

In the pursuit of conviviality, pickleball is most often played with four players, two on each side of the net.

With the players closer together on a smaller court—and the smaller courts more numerous and close-clustered—the players are less inclined to compete and more inclined to fraternize with their more and less active peers.

Unlike tennis, most of the action takes place close to the net (but not at the net), … toc…toc…toc.

So aging ears can more easily tune in to the occasional comments about their co-players’ latest joint replacement.

The tennis court is much too spread out for repartee, camaraderie, and updates on health care.

Pickleball Techniques and Tips

10 Pickleball Tips I WISH I Knew Earlier...

A couple more things: dinking and the “Mulligan.”

Before a pickleballer plays their first game of the day, they must take part in a warm-up exercise that has the characteristically cute nickname of “dinking.”

Dinking consists of the gentle hitting of the ball back and forth over the net for anywhere from two to ten minutes—until the player who has needed warming up feels ready.

This non-competitive opportunity to “break the ice” and banter is lost in tennis.

Tough tennis players don’t dink. And they don’t offer the “Mulligan.”

This is the widespread practice of allowing newcomers to the game a “do-over” if they miss their first—and often their second and third—serve.

The Cultural Significance of Pickleball

The rise of pickleball

Pickleball is for the faint of heart, and that’s why it has retained such a silly name as pickleball.

Contrariwise, tennis has a serious name. And its action has a serious sound.

Plastic pickleball against solid paddle equals: toc… toc… toc.

But when a rubber ball is propelled by a stringed racket across a huge space, in a sport like, shall we say tennis, Get serious!: Pow… pow… pow!

The Future of Pickleball

"It's About Education, NOT Certification" 👀 📚 Pickleball Business Insider 👐 | Future of Pickleball

So, keep an eye out for the gaggles of grammies, granddads, and retiree wannabes crowding the public pickleball courts on weekday mornings and afternoons.

Most of these unemployed don’t know a weekday from a Sunday, and many of them might look a bit mummified with their multiple bindings and joint braces. 

Pickleball can be played with an impressive array of injuries.

The public tennis courts, on the other hand, might have an old timer or two hanging around during normal working hours.

But these courts only get really busy during weekends and weekday evenings.

In sum, if it weren’t for seniors and tennis, pickleball would not prevail. It’s the senior cult of “not tennis.”

Pickleball provides a purpose for seniors just as seniors provide a toc… toc… toc for pickleball.

A Life Out of Whack: Confessions and Reflexions of an Un-American All-American (5) (GWE Creative...
  • Essif, Les (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 425 Pages - 09/01/2018 (Publication Date) - Guernica World Editions (Publisher)

Author Bio:
Before retiring from his career as an academic in the field of French studies, Les Essif was a New York City cop and a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

His “A Life Out of Whack: Confessions and Reflections of an Un-American All-American” (2018) is part memoir of his early life and part polemical discussion of the American way.

He is not a pickleball champion.

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