Peter Piper picked a peck of pickleballs
Pickleball. What is it? Why is it called that? Does it have anything to do with pickles we eat?
“Hi, my name is Pickles, the family cocker spaniel of one of the co-inventors of pickleball. I used to chase stray balls and then hide in the bushes, so they named the game after me. I am very proud.”
This quote was taken directly from the USA Pickleball Association website. Its accuracy was confirmed by George Michaels, current president of the Sun City Huntley Pickleball Club, one of the many sports-related charter clubs in the community.
The website also says between 30,000 and 40,000 persons have taken up the sport since its beginning in the 1960s by two creative residents of the state of Washington.
About 74 Sun Citians are members of the local club, according to Michaels.
“We have as many as 20-25 players on the Tall Oaks tennis courts in the spring and summer, or at the Cosman Center gym in the Huntley Park District in winter. Our sport is year-round, like tennis and bowling,” Michaels said. “We play at Cosman from 2-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and we have about as many players indoors in winter as we do outdoors in summer.”
The sport combines tennis and badminton and is played on badminton-sized courts that are usually lined out on tennis courts or in gymnasiums. The net is dropped to 34 inches above the court at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a whiffle ball) and wood or composite paddles. The sound of the game is a “thwock” when the paddle strikes the ball. It is played slowly and casually for social purposes, and aggressively and with great speed at competitive events. Games are usually played to 11 points and can be won by 1 or 2 points.
“The game bears some relation to racquetball, which a lot of us seniors played when we were younger,” Michaels said. “I played a lot of racquetball, and when we moved here four years ago and I discovered a pickleball club existed, I tried it and got hooked right away.”
Now he is one of the club’s better players.
“My wife likes tennis, and I still play some tennis, but mostly I play pickleball.”
Michaels and Bruce Nagle won two of the events at the club’s annual outdoor season tournament last September.
The sport has developed to the point that the USAPA sponsors a national tournament in November near the original Sun City in Buckeye, Arizona.
“Some of our people travel to Arizona to play, and I believe some of them may have played in that tournament,” Michaels said. “I believe the game’s rising popularity is because it can be competitive for some and just casual and social for others,” Michaels said. “And I also think we benefit from the year-round facilities in Huntley.”
The spot thrives on the humor and jokes often surrounding its name. With its tongue firmly in its cheek, the USAPA website descibes “Pickleballmania,” or a “highly contagious, progressive, and incurable disease. Early theories assumed that pickleball is an addictive drug; however, recent studies isolated Pickleballfever as the bacteria that causes pickleballmania. This discovery explains why earlier treatment programs such as Pickleball Players Anonymous were unsuccessful.”
In “Stage 3” of Pickleballmania, the website says an “infected individual” loses interest in other pursuits and is often willing to spend hundreds of dollars for gas to get to the next tournament. In extreme cases, the victim neglects even the most elementary functions such as eating, shopping, and personal hygiene.”
There may be some truth to the rumor that the requirement to be a good pickleball player is to have a creative sense of humor.
From a frisky cocker spaniel to a national championship, pickleball has come a long way. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with pickles that you put in your hamburger or salad.
The game gives new meaning to the phrase, “Gone to the dogs.”