Ready, Set, Pickleball!


Pickleball has been touted as one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States for years, and the tennis, badminton, and ping-pong hybrid thrived in 2020.

The game was created in 1965 by former Washington Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum as the trio tried to entertain their kids but couldn’t find the right equipment to play a proper game of badminton.

Pickleball paddles are close to the size of a tennis racquet while resembling a ping-pong paddle in shape and handle length, and the net is lower like in badminton. The game follows a simple set of rules: the ball must remain within the marked area and can only bounce once per side. The goal of the game is to get to 11 points, and only the serving players can score.

With tennis activities moving to the new Edmond Center Court facility, the Kickingbird Center has been rebranded as the Kickingbird Pickleball Center and features 32 dedicated outdoor pickleball courts.

Linda Piatt is just one of several Edmond locals to pick up pickleball. “I knew I was going to retire, and I thought I needed something else to keep me busy,” Piatt said. “I’d heard about pickleball, saw a few YouTube videos, and then one day just kind of went to one of the locations and played.” 

She praises the game for being beginner friendly while also having a lot of depth. “It’s particularly easy to pick up, but it is a game that requires a long time to master,” Piatt said. “The community is great and almost everybody’s very happy to help somebody who is new or wants to improve. It is a wonderful thing to see—but you do have to put in the work if you want to get better.”

The pickleball community in Edmond and Oklahoma has grown quickly since there are so many places to play, whether it be at an established court or by chalking lines and setting up a portable net. Piatt said since Kickingbird opened its pickleball courts, they’ve added “more than 300 members” to the Greater OKC Pickleball Club.

“The hallmark of pickleball is that it’s a very social game. Everyone gets to rotate in, and you’re constantly playing with new people,” Piatt said. “It’s also multi-generational, which means you’ve got people who are teenagers that love to play, all the way up to people in their 80s and early 90s. That’s really nice.”

Because players are separated on the court when playing singles, they are always socially distancing. Piatt says she has never felt uncomfortable while playing the game during lockdown because the game’s conduct naturally keeps people safer, and the activity helps her stay healthy.

“If you keep moving, you can really stay sharp, and I’ve been very conscious of keeping my body healthy every day to mitigate some of those concerns,” Piatt said. “Pickleball is a great way to exercise without feeling like you are in the doldrums of an exercise routine. You’re just out there, having fun.”

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