Interested in pickleball? There are two important things to know about pickleball. First, pickleball is easy to learn in the very first session. But the other thing about pickleball is that it is so hard to master that it becomes outright addictive.
Tennis and pickleball have much in common, and pickleball compares to a high level of tennis doubles, where all four players are trying to close on the ne, and they chip the ball to the feet of their opponent, trying to force an error or weak return.
I try to make a point of asking every new pickleball player about their prior sports background. Some tell me they were not involved in any sport, but now that they have moved here, they play and love pickleball. Others tell me they previously played volleyball, baseball, basketball, tennis, racquetball, etc.
One very athletic young lady told me at the first tournament I ever attended that she played table tennis, and pickleball was table tennis on a very big table. As I said in an earlier article, as people from different sports continue to flock to pickleball at an accelerated rate, the game is almost evolving in front of our eyes.
Ron Belinko, coming from the world of lacrosse and now a resident of Bishops Landing, where he has started a pickleball program, said, “The footwork and arm strokes are very similar to the mechanics when catching, throwing and shooting a lacrosse ball.”
Steve Donohue of Bay Forest, a relocated New York City high school basketball coach and former collegiate player, pointed out the similarities in both sports: good eye/hand coordination, balance, focus, commitment, hustle, concentration, high energy, knowledge of the rules/game, attitude, sportsmanship, teamwork and the desire to improve your game.
He added, “Athletes need to possess a passion and dedication as they move from beginner to an accomplished player, and pickleball is no different. In order to bring your game to the next level, it takes many hours of practice and hard work to improve your skills.”
Steve Jarczynski of Ocean City, Md., played paddleball, and he explained the similarities this way: Both require a high level of eye-hand coordination, and footwork is crucial to success. Serving rules require placement of ball in a specific area of the court, shot placement is a big strategy for both sports, and points can only be scored by the serving player/team.
Relocated Pennsylvanian Peter Gemora compared it to racquetball: Both require hand-eye coordination using a similar-size paddle and quick reflexes, and the overhead slam is similar in both sports, as is anticipation.
Donna Whitman of Fairview Village is a tried and true dedicated golfer, but she finds that a regular dosage of pickleball helps her maintain the strength in her arms, legs and thighs, and hand-eye coordination — all essential elements in golf at her level.
They all are telling us that pickleball incorporates the same key elements as their other sports.
I would add balance and footwork are typically underrated by average athletes. In the 1973 Wimbledon Ladies Championships, Billie Jean King beat Chris Evert in the finals. The week after that match, the president of Wilson Sporting Goods and I had dinner with Chris in Chicago. It came up in the dinner conversation that her father, who was also her coach, called Chris immediately after her 6-0, 7-5 loss and pointed out her what she had done wrong.
I was fascinated by the conversation. Her response: “He said I wasn’t bending my knees and stepping into the ball.” I said, almost frantically, “Chris, what else did he tell you?” She went on to say there was nothing more. These are the two basic tenants for so many sports, including pickleball.
Remember, it only takes one session to learn, several more to crawl, and it won’t be long before we all watch you with awe.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.