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It’s Time to Play Pickleball!

By Steve Somers

The growing popularity of pickleball is unmistakable. The sport began as a backyard game in Washington state in 1965 and has become the fastest growing sport in our country, around the world, and definitely in the Coachella Valley. It’s something everyone should try.

My friend George from Sun City Palm Desert told me there are now six tennis courts and six pickleball courts in their community.  Tennis has about 160 club members while the pickleball club has 450 members and growing.     

Several months ago, I spent the weekend at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens at the National Pickleball Championships.  If you assumed this is just a sport for seniors, you would be mistaken as I watched two 8 year-old boys get a win over two 40 year-old guys.  It was hotly competitive, but they all had a good laugh and a handshake at the end. 

The tournament included age brackets and skill levels for everyone.  Over 2,400 players competed for national bragging rights and the pros split $75,000 in prize monies. 

As a competitive tennis player who just started playing pickleball six months ago, I have begun to experience the health benefits of the sport which are worth noting. Pickleball gives you a good aerobic workout, but with far less stress and strain on muscles and joints than tennis, a major reason why the senior community has flocked to the sport.

Paired with a healthy diet, pickleball can be an excellent part of a weight reduction plan as one hour of singles play can burn up to 600 calories.  Doubles play would burn less, of course, but most doubles players play for an hour and half to two hours, reaching that same level of calories burned.

Since you are carrying your own weight in short, rapid movements, the sport is considered a weight-bearing exercise which boosts the cardiovascular system while improving hand-eye coordination. 

The game is also a lot of fun.  I have much more fun playing pickleball than tennis, as it is more social and has a quicker pace of play.  There are a lot of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ as good shots are made or defended against.   

In our Palm Springs condo complex, we had three tennis courts.  One of the tennis courts has been re-striped making two pickleball courts out of one tennis court.  There were few players at first, but gradually it is catching on. Several in our group have had very little experience with competitive sports, one even saying she has avoided these activities since high school.  She is rapidly picking up the game and having a blast in the process (and we are all getting more fit).

In general, the sport is kind to newcomers.  If you visit one of the many public parks where people “drop in” for games, ask what days and times are best for beginners. Most players are happy to share that information.   

So, if you are looking for an activity that is fun, healthy and easy to learn, pickleball may be for you.  I’ll see you on the courts!   

Steve Somers is a community contributor to Desert Health. To find pickleball courts near you, visit the USAPA’s website www.places2play.org or contact USAPA District Ambassador Hank Reimer at wr88cal@aol.com.

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