February 25, 2009
By Michael Omenazu
What is Pickleball?
Ironically, a game that embraces a vast and diverse group of players (often varying in levels of athleticism) is relatively unknown by the masses. Its descriptions range from a mixture of badminton and whiffle ball to life-sized ping-pong.
The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) defines it as, “a fun game that is played on a badminton court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a whiffle ball) and wood or composite paddles. It is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.”
The activity was created during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, near Seattle. According to co-inventors U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, their intent was to create a fun new sport for the entire family.
The USAPA also provides the origin of the sport’s name stating that, “the name came from a family dog named Pickles who would chase after balls and then hide them in the bushes. Pickle's Ball was later shortened to "pickleball."
While it may be unfamiliar to many, it is not to UIS and their Department of Recreational Sports as they have featured intramural leagues in both fall and spring semesters.
Karen Willard, Assistant Director, Programming in the university’s Department of Recreational Sports comments on the nature of the sport by adding that, “Because of the way the game is set up with a small playing court, the game becomes more about finesse and strategy.”
Regular intramural participant Lance Ennen consistently played in high school where he sharpened his skills. He has carried his interest to the college level, even assisting in its development on campus although his fellow peers fail to share similar sentiments for the sport.
While the school had all the necessary equipment Ennen reflects “Basically the seed had already been planted and I just helped in watering it and making it grow.” This included a collaborative effort to institute intramural leagues.
Although these endeavors have traditionally suffered low turnout and poor student support, the last doubles tournament featured four teams engaging in three game series against every other team. Willard noted, “As the tournament went on, each team progressed in their performance.”
Although aware of the slim chances of Pickeball replacing baseball as the nation’s pastime, Willard, Ennen and other enthusiasts look forward to its advancement on campus.