Pickleball

The Anniston YMCA hosts pickleball games every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m.-noon.

Submitted photo

What sport has a really funny name, was supposedly named after a dog and kind of sounds like it belongs in the kitchen? Pickleball!

Even though this column is called "Fitness over 50," I admit that pickleball is not just for folks over 50. Although it is very popular with the over-50 crowd and in places where there are a lot of retirees, such as Florida, pickleball is a sport for all ages.

Did you know we have pickleball right here in Anniston?

Maybe you have never heard of this game, but it is one of the fastest growing sports in America. The origins of pickleball go back to the mid 1960s and to Bainbridge Island, Wash., near Seattle. Rep. Joel Pritchard and a few of his friends, in an effort to create a family-friendly game, took a badminton court and moved the net closer to the ground (more like a tennis net), then added some wooden paddles and a whiffle-like ball. And pickleball was born.

(There is some disagreement as to whether the game was named for the Pritchard family dog, Pickle, or if the family dog was named after the game pickleball. Either way, you get people’s attention when you mention you play pickleball!)

Today’s game can be played indoors or outdoors. The court is 20 feet by 44 feet with a net that is 36 inches high. Two, three or four players can play. The game is played to 11 points, and a team must win by two points.

Semi-local pickleball expert Jack Wright, from Southside, loves the game for several reasons. The social aspect, while exercising and having fun, is what he likes most, he said. Not to mention it is very competitive.

Wright has been a member of the Huntsville Pickleball Club for three years. That club now boasts 180 members. The Huntsville club has spring and fall tournaments. Wright and his partner won this year’s spring tournament in the competitive division. There were three divisions: beginner, intermediate and competitive. The club requires its players to be at least 16 years old.

Full disclosure: I only learned this game about nine months ago. Some days I am no good at it, and some days I feel like I am starting to master it. It is very fun and very hard to stop playing once you start.

There are many strange rules that take a while to learn, but once you learn them it makes it even more fun. The rules are much easier to understand when explained by an expert such as Wright.

According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), pickleball was in all 50 states as of 1990. The USAPA website lists 17 locations in Alabama to play pickleball — not counting the YMCA of Calhoun County, which is not listed, but you can play pickleball there.

The USAPA Nationals Vll, celebrating 50 years of pickleball, are taking place in Casa Grande, Ariz., through today. The tournament is being live-streamed. But better yet, come on down to the Anniston YMCA and see pickleball live and in color every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m.-noon.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. And she’s over 50. "Fitness Over 50" is published the third Sunday of each month.