By Kristin Boza
Peter picked a peck of … pickleballs?
It’s a silly name for an incredibly fun-for-all-ages game! Pickleball which was invented in 1965 by a trio of Washington state dads who were tired of hearing their kids complain about being bored. What began as a way to entertain a family is now an official sport gaining popularity in the U.S. and abroad.
Pickleball is easy to learn — in fact, your kids probably have played it during P.E. class at school. It’s based heavily on badminton, but many describe it as a cross between badminton, ping pong, and tennis. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), established in 2005, all that is needed is a court, a paddle (which is a bit larger than a ping pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racket), and a plastic ball with holes.
The first local pickleball court was built at Cosme Park, 9201 S. Longwood Dr., and a group dubbing themselves the Cosme Park Pickleballers continues to gather to play there and at Crescent Park, 2200 W. 108th Pl. The group is mostly seniors who play two to three days per week for a maximum of three hours. The players are Odell Branch (Ambassador of the USA Pickleball Association), Cynde Jones, Kathy Jones, Denise Jordan, Dearal Jordan, Bob Madsen, Mary Lynn Madsen, Cathy O’Loughlin, Randy Papp, and Rosemary Reagan.
“We play because it’s fun, free, and excellent for a person’s physical and mental health,” said Kathy Jones. “Pickleball is easy to learn but it’s up to the player to decide what level to play at; you can be anywhere between a recreational player to a tournament player.”
The official pickleball court is modified from a doubles badminton court and is also similar to a tennis court. The game can easily be played on any standard tennis court found at area parks.
For serious tournaments, the pickleball court should have a net set at 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. The stripes on a tennis court are the same for pickleball.
Pickleball is commonly played as a doubles game, but two players can enjoy it as well. Play begins with an underhand serve heading diagonally into the opponent’s side of the court. Before making first contact with the pickleball, it must bounce on the ground; then, the opponent must allow it to bounce on their side before volleying it back. This is known as the two-bounce rule.
After those two bounces, players can either volley the ball back and forth or allow it to bounce only one time before returning it to the other side.
But, beware of volleying into the “kitchen,” otherwise known as the seven feet closest to the net on either side of the court where players cannot touch the zone or the line while volleying. The kitchen rule prevents players from smashing or spiking the pickleball to their opponent.
Points are only scored by the serving team and are awarded one at a time. Winners are declared when one side achieves 11 points, although they must win by two, so play could extend beyond 11 points.
Of course, there are many rules about serving, line calls, faults, and more. But, these basics and will set up a family, especially one with little kids, with enough knowledge to get a feel for the game.
Where to Play
Chicago Park District locations in Beverly/Morgan Park with designated pickleball courts are Graver Park, 1518 W. 102nd Pl., and Cosme Park. A brand-new court is coming to Munroe Park, 2617 W. 105th St., this year.