Monday, January 10, 2022

Pickle Ball Has Replaced Tennis

 I stopped playing weekly doubles tennis three years ago. Not because I didn’t like it. Not because of any physical limitation. Not because of a time conflict. Not because of the expense. Not because I wasn’t any good at it, though that appraisal is subject to different ratings based on the evaluator.

Actually, that last clause encapsulated the reason. A new player joined our group the year before. I acknowledge he was a better player than I. But he was also a p**ck. He made it totally uncomfortable to be on the court, either as his partner or foe.

It was a no brainer to conclude my mental health was more important than any benefit physical activity could provide. I was not alone in that assessment. Another of our regular players dropped out for similar reasons.

Last Tuesday morning, playing my first game, I entered the world of pickle ball. Though the playing area looks like a miniature tennis court, there are several significant equipment differences between the two sports.

First, you play with a plastic ball with holes, like a wiffle ball. Pickle balls don’t bounce like tennis balls. It takes extraordinary concentration to remember that even the hardest hit ball will not bounce up to your waist or higher, as a tennis ball might.

Second, a pickle ball racquet is just 8 inches wide by 15-3/4 inches long, compared to 11 x 27 inches of a tennis racquet. You must get closer to a pickle ball if you want to successfully hit it over the net.

Combined, those two pieces of equipment require much more bending from the knees and waist, not something I do often enough in life but obviously need to do more of on the court to become proficient in, and avoid injury during, pickle ball.

Pickle ball has taken on almost cult-like status, particularly among my age cohort. I’m not yet at the groupie stage but I am looking forward to my next game tomorrow morning for which I’ll have to swing out of bed around 8 am to get ready hours—literally hours—before my normal departure from under my warm comforter.