Pickleball: playing at a place near you
IT'S only been in Australia for four years, but Pickleball is attracting the attention of seniors as a fun and social way to get active indoors and outdoors.
The game has come from the USA via Cairns-based Pickleball Australia president Gabi Plumm. She saw it was something that could easily be introduced into Australia.
There's already three million players in the USA and many of them are in retirement villages.
"It's a mixture of tennis, badminton and ping pong," Gabi said. Now, who hasn't played one of those games in their younger lives?
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court, which is 40 by 22 feet, over a low tennis net which is 34 inches in the middle and 36 inches at each end. It's played using a light-weight paddle, which Gabi describes as being "a ping pong bat on steroids", and a plastic wiffle ball which has holes in it.
Most games are played as doubles. It's a game that can be played between grandparents and grandchildren.
Gabi says it's "super easy" to learn. Within 10 or 20 minutes of instruction in using the right stroke and then players can get on the court. "It's fantastically easy to learn and a joy for people to do," Gabi said.
"Everyone is very friendly. It's the only sport I know where people laugh when the ball goes out or into the net."
The beauty of Pickleball is it's all underarm. You don't need a lot of strength; it's more about coordination. "You don't have to throw the ball in the air like tennis," Gabi said.
"It's much easier for seniors players to manage. We are attracting a large number of older players who are interested in keeping active, but can no longer play tennis, in particular."
The paddle cost starts at about $50 and the wiffle balls $5 each. Players need to register with the national organisation and there is a small club cost to play.
There are about 1000 players already registered across Australia. About 75 per cent of them are aged over 50 right up to 80. Early next year a major Pickleball marketing campaign will rollout which Gabi expects will generate a significant increase in player numbers.
In the meantime, anyone who wants to learn Pickleball, join a group or start up their own group, can contact Pickleball Australia at pickleballaus.org.