A few months ago I had lunch with a friend at a local deli and he asked me what I thought of Pickleball. I told him I like dill pickles, sour pickles and even pickled herring but never heard of pickleball. He laughed.

Retirement sportsPickleball is not the latest deli delicacy but a game that seems to be a cousin to tennis, ping-pong and racket ball. Apparently it is one of the fastest growing sports in the US especially with boomers and retirees. And it is not named after pickles but named after a dog (Pickles) that used to chase the balls on the court when the game was first conceived nearly 50 years ago.

The game can be played either indoors or outdoors. When played indoors it is typically set up on the wooden floor of gym. Outdoors it is found on tennis or volleyball courts or on any hard surface where a net can be set up.

The ball is about the size of softball but is made of hard plastic and is hollow. And it is perforated.

The paddles are similar in size to racquetball rackets but are either solid wood or graphite.

As in tennis, the game can be played as singles or doubles but the court is the same size; there are no doubles lanes. In addition the court is about half the size of a tennis court.

Unlike tennis the serve in pickleball is underhand and must bounce before being returned by the receiver. The receiver’s return must also bounce before being hit by the serving side. Only the serving side can score points.

Retirement sport pickleballA few weeks after the lunch with my friend, my wife told me that she saw a flyer at our local Y about Pickleball. They were looking for players to play twice each week. No Pickleball experience required.

Sounded good to me.

I played tennis for years and figured this would be a breeze. How hard can this be? The court is half the size of a tennis court; the ball is bigger than a tennis ball. No sweat.

I signed up and showed up for the first session. Two nets were set up in the gym and eight people were there. Perfect for doubles.

Most of the players were approximately my age. A few were younger (in their 30s or 40s).

We got on the court and started to hit the ball and I immediately knew this was not tennis. First I had to adjust to the paddle (instead of the tennis racket). Then the bounce of the ball was nothing like a tennis ball. In addition some of the people were able to slice, spin and drop the pickleball in a way that only advanced tennis players are capable of doing with a tennis ball.

The smaller size of the court meant that the doubles team could get to most of the shots, which made for longer rallies, and a great workout.

It took several sessions before I started to get the hang of it. But I am improving and loving it.

It is a great game that can be played and enjoyed by many who want to stay active during their retirement.