Whether it really was about the ball-chasing dog named Pickles that led to the creation of the sport that is considered the fastest growing sport in America, there is no dispute that pickleball is a game that can be played by young and old, athletic and not-very athletic, and slow and fast players alike. John Van Wyck, Resort Manager at Fun-N-Sun RV Resort in San Benito, Texas, says, “Pickleball is easy to learn, and anyone can join in on the fun.” The resort’s FNS Pickleball Club organizes all kinds of events centered around the sport from daily open play to annual tournaments. In fact, the events here are so highly regarded many guests indicate they return year after year because of them. “From October to April, the activity schedule at FNS is jam-packed with pickleball events,” Van Wyck said.
According to a report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. and the number of players nationwide increased by 40% from 2019 to 2021. Why? Maybe it’s the ease of play, the social camaraderie and the limited amount of equipment required. To hear Verde Valley RV Resort Manager Scott Wooley describe it, getting in on the pickleball action is a no-brainer. Says Wooley, “It’s a high action, yet very social game. Limited gear is needed, and it is great for raising your heart rate, but not overly taxing.”
Exactly what is pickleball? According to USApickleball.org, the sport, which is a combination of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, was created by three dads from Bainbridge Island, Washington, back in the late 1960s as a possible solution for their kids’ boredom with their usual summer activities. One of the stories behind the new game’s name was that it was in honor of one family’s dog, Pickles, whose favorite thing to do was chase after balls. However, the Pritchard family, whose father was one of the three creative dads, maintains the dog Pickles came several years after the game was invented. They instead say the origin of the name came from a local “pickle boat” racing competition suggested by Mrs. Pritchard.
And while several Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV Resorts have offered pickleball courts and plenty of pickleball-related events for many years, the soaring popularity of the game is seeing more and more guests looking for pickleball courts as a standard amenity when they choose to stay with us. “We now have six pickleball courts that are busy all winter,” said Suzanne Spalding, Manager at Riverside RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida. “Last January, we held a tournament that had nearly 100 participants, and we expect our January 2023 event to exceed that number,” said Fun-N-Sun’s Van Wyck. Many of the resorts also offer indoor pickleball courts, as well.
Who isn’t playing pickleball these days? Recent articles and internet blurbs have included the names of such pickleball-loving celebrities as Ellen DeGeneres, the Kardashians, George Clooney, and Leonard DiCaprio. Tennis greats also seem to like the similar, yet slower-paced game and Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi have admitted to swapping the tennis racket for the pickleball paddle.
Speaking of paddle, it’s probably a good thing to note that not a lot of equipment is required to play the game. If you’re playing at a pre-designated court, all you really need is a pickleball paddle, a sort of hybrid between a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racket, and a pickleball, which looks very much like a whiffleball. Amazon has some nice kits that contain the paddles and balls in a handy carrying case. Of course, with the popularity of the sport taking off, there is now all kinds of fashionable pickleball gear on the market, from shoes to special belts for holding extra balls, but any comfortable sportswear and a good sneaker will do just fine. Even J. Crew offers pickleball paddles and totes, and Mark and Graham, a popular lifestyle brand with monogrammed items, offers a slew of pickleball gear ranging from paddles to water bottles and pickleball pajamas and themed serving trays.
Then, there’s the lingo. Apparently you want to stay out of “the kitchen,” a 7-foot zone on either side of the net where a player is forbidden to hit the ball; know that a flapjack in pickleball is not about breakfast, but rather a required bounce of the ball with each serve, and finally, you need to know when you’ve been pickled – meaning you have unfortunately scored zero points in a game. For more details on the game, check out usapickleball.org.
As we mentioned above, pickleball has been enjoyed at many of our resorts and campgrounds for quite some time. Not saying that Thousand Trails campgrounds and Encore RV Resorts are trend-setters, but we do seem to have been a bit ahead of this trend and are glad to welcome pickleball players of all ages and abilities to come enjoy this social sport and hopefully not get pickled!