Frank Marino of Rancho Sante Fe gets pretty pumped up about pickleball. In fact, his fellow players call him the “unofficial pickleball ambassador.”
Despite the odd-sounding name – and having absolutely nothing to do with pickles – pickleball is an organized sport with national and international governing bodies and more than 100,000 players in the United States.
“I’m 64, and I thought I’d never play a sport like this,” said Marino. “But it’s really rejuvenated me and made me feel healthier.”
Marino is one of about 20-30 regulars who play the sport twice a week at the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department’s Lakeside Community Center.
“It gives me a good workout,” Marino said. “It’s good cardio and gets my heart pumping a couple of times a week for 3-4 hours.”
Pickleball combines badminton, tennis and table tennis into a game that’s attracting people of all ages.
“It’s kind of like a combination of a small game of tennis and a large game of pingpong,” said Marino.
The game is played with wood or composite paddles and a perforated plastic ball similar to a Wiffle ball. The net is 36 inches high at the ends, dropping to 34 inches in the center, and the court is set up similarly to tennis but with smaller perimeters, like a badminton court.
“It’s a great sport for older adults who want to stay active,” said Josh Bugiel, Lakeside Community Center recreation program director. “It’s a little more low-impact and a little slower than other sports and easier on the joints.”
The local popularity of the sport is expanding. They’ve been playing pickleball for four years in Lakeside but other communities are getting in on the fun.
“It just keeps growing,” said Bugiel. “We have actually had people start here and branch off and start groups in La Mesa, Fallbrook and Pacific Beach.”
Because the equipment is not expensive, it’s easy to get started.
“You buy the nets and poles once,” said Bugiel. “The thing I end up buying the most is the balls.”
The court can be marked as easily as putting down tape on a gym floor or other similar surface.
“Most players have their own paddles,” he said. “When they get serious about the sport they buy their own paddles.”
No worries, though, if you’re new to the sport. The community center has a supply of paddles to loan out.
“Players are very encouraging to newcomers,” said Bugiel. “The group always welcomes them.”
The number of newcomers surges in the winter months when vacationing older adults seek out places to play pickleball.
“We see a crowd who come from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in RV’s on vacation,” said Bugiel. “It’s an influx of out-of-towners and they come here to get their pickleball fix.”
Pickleball is played every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Lakeside Community Center, 9841 Vine Street. Walk-ins are always welcome, but players must be at least 18 years old. There is a $2 fee.
The community center is also hosting their second annual pickleball tournament on Saturday, April 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s a doubles-style tournament with each team guaranteed at least two matches. Food, drinks and prize drawings will be available and winners will receive trophies. Call 619-443-9176 for more information.
Pickleball basics from WorldPickleball.com:
While the name sounds silly, the game of pickleball actually involves no pickles at all. Pickleball is like overgrown pingpong, and it can provide a new twist on pingpong and badminton itself. The game is easy to learn and fun for players of all ages.
Pickleball is played much like a pingpong game, with a badminton net placed slightly above ground level. Teams can consist of one or two players and but commonly feature two.
A full-sized badminton court, usually on a hard surface, large pickleball paddles and a hard plastic ball the size of a Wiffle ball are used for pickleball. Safety goggles may used by players with glasses.
The game of pickleball was invented in the state of Washington in 1965. It was originally made as a new family game but quickly spread through schools and community centers as an easy way to exercise and have fun.
Serves are conducted behind the court’s back line. They must cross the court diagonally and land on the other side. The serving side is switched with each point, and the score must be called out every time.
Points are scored when the other team misses the ball or hits the ball out of bounds or when the ball hits an opponent’s side twice. Games are usually played to 11, 15 or 21, and they must be won by 2 points.