Let’s Pickleball, a Crash Course

Like learning to ride a bike, anything takes practice until it becomes a natural part of what you know how to do, no matter your age. Pickleball is no different. 

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport sweeping the country. There are now even months-long delays on court shoes, certain paddles and gear. Although it can be played in any age group, seniors in particular are jumping into the sport in droves. 

For a few reasons. First, it’s a very social sport, and a great way to meet new people, especially if you are newly retired and relocated. Second, the courts are smaller than tennis courts; therefore, there is less distance to cover than tennis. This makes it achievable and less intimidating for many. Third, it is a sport that is safer for seniors, meaning fewer injuries. 

If you haven’t played Pickleball, but you have experience in tennis, table tennis or badminton, this game should come pretty naturally. Even if you don’t have any experience with trying to hit anything with a tool attached to your hand, it’s all about the social factors, and most experienced players actually love to teach the game to invite newbies to join in. The network becomes so supportive that you will likely meet others at your level willing to have fun while learning the game. Together. 

Here’s how it works.  

Most games are mixed doubles, which makes it even more appealing to couples, but there can be other types of leagues based on gender or level. Unless it is a tournament, it’s very friendly play with rules we respect. 

Described by many as a combination of tennis, badminton or Ping Pong, it’s a game that uses a paddle rather than a racquet, and although there are several quirky rules to learn, it’s pure fun to hit the pickleball back and forth. 

The pickleball itself is like a wiffle ball – plastic with lots of round holes. It’s lightweight, making it easier to send across the net – another appeal to seniors. 

To demonstrate the game and learn pointers for every level, there are plenty of YouTube videos available. There are also televised, intense championships to watch. 

Many new developments (i.e., many retirement communities) are constructing Pickleball courts as part of their master plan…incentive for people who want their own, not public courts. 

Here in Sussex County, you can find courts from beach areas to the farmlands if you don’t live in a community that offers courts. Many are public, some are private like a club. Most courts are outside, but increasingly, there is a surge in indoor court play. Think sweltering Delaware heat at the height of summer, and non-playable courts during parts of the winter. 

Here are some suggested SoDel public or clublike places you can look into.  

  • Clayton Elementary School, Dagsboro – 10 courts managed by First State Pickleball Club 
  • Lewes Canalfront Park public courts 
  • Rehoboth Beach public courts 
  • Georgetown public courts 
  • Dave Marshall Fitness (indoor courts – also offer classes and league play) 
  • Sea Colony, Bethany Beach (public/private, fees) 
  • Factory Sports Complex, Lewes (indoor) 
  • Sports at the Beach, Georgetown (fees, all levels, instruction, friendly play) 
  • Check out numerous web resources by Googling “Pickleball in DE” 
  • Playtime Scheduler – type in DE Beaches Area for a list of potential sites and potentially available games 

Pickleball players on the vast majority of courts are “friendly play,” and you may be surprised at the diversity of its players, from naturally athletic to self-proclaimed “non-athletes” who usually end up getting hooked as well. 

Beginners needn’t worry initially about how to gauge their “level,” basically a scale of 1-5 (pros). There are plenty of “in-betweeners,” but the purpose of identifying yourself at a certain level is to match players appropriately. These definitions by the way are endorsed by USA Pickleball, the go-to reference for rules and things such as level ratings. 

Give it a try. Go hit something… harmlessly. 

BONUS INFO, from our member, Tom Bauer: there’s also this great APP that helps you connect: Playtime Scheduler

Here are a few pics on how to access different sites. You need to create a User ID and Password, but its free! The site will show you different sites to play in the area, the level of the players, 1.0 – 5.0. I would say if you’re a 2.0, don’t try to play with 4.0 folks unless you want to get schooled! Sometimes they will politely let you know you should find a different level to play against. There definitely is a difference in play!

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