As a health and happiness coach, I’ve been a big proponent of pickleball for over a decade now. Part of my goal has been to get more and more people to play pickleball, and now that pickleball has gone mainstream, that goal has gotten a bit easy.
People don’t look at me quite as weird as they used to when I say, “You should try pickleball.” These days, pickleball is in commercial after commercial, and it’s even been referenced on the Simpsons. Homer called it “tennis where you don’t have to move…” Where Homer’s trendy new friend corrected, “You do have to move a little.”
That said, you can certainly work up a sweat playing pickleball, and exercising can be a big boost to both health and happiness. That’s one of the reasons I encourage other people to give pickleball a try. Here are some more talking points I use just in case you want some help with converting your non-pickleball-playing friends into picklers.
Pickleball is a fun workout that can get the heart pumping, and with a proper warm-up, it’s also quite safe. Obviously, you can get hurt playing pickleball, but you can tailor your game to reduce the chances of injury.
I, for one, refuse to run back for a lob over my head. You make a nice lob over me, and I give you a tip of my cap. If I’m playing with a younger partner, I let them know, “any lobs are yours.” I also like to let them know, “If I’m deep, any dinks over the net are yours.” Pickleball is great for building healthy communication skills with friends, family, and strangers you meet at open play!
I often refer to pickleball as the backgammon of paddle sports, as pretty much anybody can learn to play it though it takes a lot of skill to master. Like backgammon, you can still greatly enjoy it without true mastery; in fact, most people catch on to the gameplay within minutes and love it.
The two-bounce rule takes a little getting used to, and I did have an old tennis coach who just wouldn’t respect the kitchen because he “really liked to volley at the net.” Still, most people catch on to these rules quickly. For some, the trickiest part of learning pickleball is learning to keep score, especially in doubles. I look at the scorekeeping as another way pickleball can help with mental acuity.
Playing on a court that’s much smaller than a tennis court with slower gameplay makes the game accessible to people of all ages. I’ve literally been on pickleball courts with a twelve-year-old and an eighty-plus-year-old player.
It makes for some unique and fun interactions. For example, I’ve been schooled a couple of times by players who are my seniors (in their 70s and 80s). I’m not alone; there’s a famous story about a mom named Meg Burkardt who played pickleball with three Pittsburgh Steelers and managed to take them to town! As NFL star TJ Watt said, “Meg was serving heat. We had trouble all day.” The smaller court size makes it possible for a mom to keep up with three pro athletes.
Another big plus is the smaller court helps make pickleball very social. You are so close to your opponents that you can’t help but interact with them. As a happiness and health guy, I’m very pro human interaction. While I always try to motivate and inspire my partner, I try on occasion to compliment the other team.
A little “Nice shot!” or “Good get!” goes a long way for building friendships. Though I will admit if I am playing against people I know very well, there is also some good-natured ribbing going on. This friendly banter can add to the fun.
It amazes me the number of people who may see some factors of life differently, but we learn that we share a common bond with pickleball. Pickleball shows us that we can disagree but still be friends.
In fact, now, a lot of my off-the-court interactions are with fellow pickleball players who have gone from pickleball friends to everyday good friends. That’s a huge factor in making pickleball such a healthy activity, as it helps build a stronger sense of community.
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