Pickleball is the perfect sport for kids because it's easy to learn, inexpensive, great for making friends, and easy to play across skill levels. If you're looking for a sport your kids can quickly learn—and even play competitively with you—pickleball is the perfect pick.
Pickleball For Kids: Why It’s the Perfect Children’s Sport
1 – Easy to Learn
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America for a reason: it’s easy to pick up! One of the reasons pickleball works well for young children is that you can get them on the pickleball courts without having to play a proper game. Getting two players on either side of the net and simply seeing how long a rally you can keep up is a fantastic intro to the game.
Since it has smaller courts than other sports (like tennis) there isn’t as much running around and your kids will always be closer to the ball.
2 – You Can Play Across Skill Levels
Though pickleball doesn’t have the handicap system of a sport like golf, it is one of the only racquet sports that can still be fun to play with someone better than you.
Squash, table tennis, and tennis all struggle with the fact they are games that revolve around beating your opponent with power and speed. If you’re playing someone better than you, they’ll either have to take it easy on you or beat you on every point.
A pickleball game, on the other hand, is about rallies. You win at pickleball not by smashing the ball past your opponent but by outthinking and out- manoeuvring them. While the better pickleball player will likely still win, two players of varying skills can still have a competitive and enjoyable match.
3 – Inexpensive
Like any sport, pickleball can get expensive if you want to invest in the best gear and the fanciest places to play. On the whole, however, pickleball can be played extremely cheaply.
The only absolutely necessary costs are a place to play, pickleball paddles, and a ball. Many public pickleball courts are free to use, reducing the cost even further. Basic equipment can be bought in starter sets for $20-$30 dollars.
Even if you don’t have a public pickleball court near you, pickleball can be played on just about any flat surface with a reasonable bounce: your front yard, a well-kept lawn, or even an empty car park!
4 – (Relatively) Simple Rules
Another barrier that stops people from getting into sports is that the rules are too complicated and take too long to learn.
The rules of pickleball have no such problem: they are simple and intuitive, boiling down to little more than “hit the ball over the net into this square.”
The non-volley zone (or the kitchen) complicates things ever so slightly, but even that can be picked up in a session or two, allowing young players to get on with the real fun of the game: playing!
5 – Great for Making Friends
Another factor in pickleball’s meteoric rise to the top is its reputation as a ‘sociable sport.’ It rarely leaves players completely out of breath, leaving plenty of time between points for banter and a chat. The smaller court size means you’re close enough to talk to your opponents, too.
Doubles is a particularly great game for young children because it requires teamwork. It encourages teams to talk through tactics and keep communicating: both a great way to develop friendships but also to develop your social skills too!
6 – Outdoor Play
Though indoor pickleball is very popular, most public courts actually exist outside. Pickleball is a great game for getting kids out and about, getting them some moderate physical activity, and introducing our youngest generation to the joys of the outside world.
7 – Builds Motor Skills and Hand-eye Coordination
For young children especially, playing sports is a great way to build up motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and pickleball is no exception.
While sports like soccer and basketball are also great physical activities for kids, pickleball requires slightly more finesse and control. This can be a great way to encourage more confident, bombastic children to learn to reign in their speed and power while also encouraging less confident kids to develop their motor skills in a fun and supportive environment.
How to Teach Pickleball to Kids
Learn by Playing
The best way to teach youth pickleball is to get the kids on the pickleball court with pickleball paddles in their hands as quickly as possible!
Any good youth program will want the students to be hitting balls right from the warm-up. This is the same if you’re teaching your own five-year-old to play!
A great way to start is to see how long a rally you can keep up between you. This removes the need for a “winner” and a “loser” while still offering some of the competition and fun of a full pickleball game!
Only Teach Basic Rules and Skills
Depending on the age of the children involved, there is no need to get out the full rulebook! There are only two rules someone really needs to know to start pickleball: that the ball can only bounce once and that it has to be hit over the net and inside the lines.
In terms of skills, don’t worry about trying to teach cross-court dinks or third-shot drop shots. Concentrate on the basics: keeping their eye on the ball, moving their feet, and trying to make good contact.
Keep it Fun
I was a terrible loser as a kid. Anytime I was bad at something, I would throw a tantrum and not want to play anymore! While I’m sure most children aren’t as bad as me, one thing is true: losing is not fun.
The best way to get anyone to enjoy a new hobby is to take away the pressure of ‘being good.’ This doesn’t necessarily mean taking away competition, as fun mini-games can be employed to keep that competitive edge. But a good pickleball program will focus more on enjoyment and development than the pressure to win.
Kid-Friendly Pickleball Tournaments
The above tips are great for young players just starting their journey into pickleball. But what about children who are more serious about the game, have a high skill level, and want to start playing competitively?
Well, there’s good news! USA Pickleball (the governing body of pickleball in America) has a whole page dedicated to their Juniors pickleball program. That page has details of camps, lessons, opportunities, and even a link to a page full of junior pickleball tournaments!
For even more serious young players, try checking out the Junior PPA – the junior division of the Pro Pickleball Association.
Who knows? Anna Leigh Waters, one of the best players currently on the pro circuit, played in her first event aged twelve! Maybe you’ve got the next prodigy on your hands.
Even if your kid is a pickleball genius, however, try to keep things light and fun. If they succeed, great! But even if not, you’ll have a playing partner for life, and what could be better than that?
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