Is Pickleball a Real Sport?

Some people laugh at the name Pickleball.  Others laugh at the sport itself.  In other words, not everyone loves Pickleball.  Detractors, who likely have never played the game, consider it the same as ping pong but with oversize paddles.  Granted, Pickleball started with ping pong paddles but the game quickly evolved to one requiring considerable physical skill especially at higher levels of play.

So, why do some people not consider Pickleball a Sport?  I’ll go over a few of the negative comments I’ve heard about Pickleball and counter them with my objections.

Why is it Called Pickleball?

When I tell others I play Pickleball, they usually say “you play what?”.  Then I need to repeat myself and explain that it is a real sport.  The question is how did Pickleball get its name?  Was Pickleball named after a dog?  The answer is maybe.

According to one of the founders of Pickleball, Barney McCallum, his co-founder had a dog named Pickles.  The dog would chase the ball and run off with it so the sport was named Pickleball.  Another story on how Pickleball got its name comes from the co-founder’s wife.  Joan Pritchard said the game reminded her of the pickle boat in crew.  The Pickle boat is made of leftover oarsmen from other boats.

Above are the two stories on why is it called Pickleball.  In either case, so what if Pickleball has a funny name?  Play a couple of times and then you become addicted.

You Can Only Serve Underhand in Pickleball

Tennis purists laugh at the fact that you can only serve underhand and you only get one serve.  As a result, aces are hard to come by in Pickleball.  However, the game of Pickleball is played much faster because you don’t spend time waiting for a second serve or chasing the ball after an ace.

The Ball is Plastic

Pickleball is played with a plastic ball which is much like a kid’s wiffle ball used in baseball.  It doesn’t go nearly as fast as a tennis ball or racquetball.  However, the time you have to hit the ball when players are at the non-volley zone line is 1/4 of a  second if the ball is going 30-40 miles per hour.  This is compared to the 1/2 of a second of reaction time for a baseball hitter against a pitcher throwing 90 miles per hour.  In other words, Pickleball is faster than most sports when players are at the kitchen line.

The Size of the Pickleball Court is so Small

How can you get a good workout when the court is so small?  This is a comment made by many tennis players.  However, the length of rally for a recreational tennis player may only be three or four shots and then you walk over to gather the ball from next to the fence or next court.   Pickleball points are much longer even for lower level recreational players.  Because the ball is lighter than a tennis ball, it is easier to control and get in the court.  I can easily work up a sweat when playing Pickleball because the game moves so fast both during and between points.

Pickleball Requires Little Skill

Some people say Pickleball doesn’t require much physical skill.  You can just stand in one place to hit the ball.  I can counter this by saying one of the greatest things about Pickleball is you can quickly learn and play the game without ever taking a lesson.  This means many people come to the sport without an athletic background because you can still have fun on day one since the strokes are not so technical as they are in tennis.

At higher levels of Pickleball, significant skill is needed.  You cannot just stand in one place to win a rally as your opponent can dink, volley, drive, and lob you.  Pickleball is also very creative with all of the angles and speeds you can hit the ball to win a rally.  Plus you need to keep the ball very low going over the net.  Finally, you need to be exceptionally quick both in court movement and reaction time at the highest levels in Pickleball.


There are many reasons why Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States.  It’s easy to learn, fiercely competitive at higher levels, exceptionally creative, and very social.  Pickleball is making tennis courts great again.  And, now many communities are building or opening dedicated facilities for Pickleball due to its popularity.

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