pickleball serve

Happy Pickleball Anniversary to Me!

Which Are You?

There are two types of people in the world today. Those that have never played pickleball and those that are crazy about pickleball. I fall into the second group and want to celebrate my personal pickleball anniversary!

I began playing rather unexpectedly six years ago this week! The actual date is June 29th! A close friend of mine was trying to get me to play this unknown game (I had never heard of it) with the unusual name for quite a while. I also had a cousin-in-law who was playing all over the USA during his art show travels.

“Pickleball? What in the world is that?” I asked my friend Laurel.

“It’s a game sort of like tennis, and I think you’d like it, especially because you are a tennis pro!” she replied.

“Where do you play?”, I inquired.

“At the local park here in Mill Valley. There is a drop-in group that shows up every Wednesday evening. Why don’t you come?” she answered.

I was hesitant. “Well, maybe.”

I had a lot going on. My life was thrown into chaos by my fifteen-year-old son and his shenanigans. And when I say shenanigans, I mean, he was out of control. Life was not easy at my house. I needed a positive distraction.

That afternoon as my son and I were driving to the local hardware store, a small van suddenly stopped right in front of me in the intersection and I plowed into the back of it, even as I slammed on my brakes. Everyone was okay and no one was injured, luckily. My son left me at the scene to deal with the other driver while I called my insurance agent.

To find relief and some enjoyment, I told Laurel that I would see her at the local park to try out the game of pickleball!

When I got home, I went to YouTube and looked up “how to play pickleball” and found a couple of videos that explained the rules along with a somewhat confusing scoring system.

Later that evening I showed up at the tennis courts, with taped lines for pickleball, and watched the local pro set up a couple of portable pickleball nets. There was a bucket with wooden paddles and another filled with yellow, plastic whiffle-type pickleballs.

My Pickleball Introduction

Laurel introduced me to the pro and a couple of her friends and we started “dinking” at the net. What that means is that we rallied the ball back and forth very softly to one another. It was easy enough for me, but the sound of the “pop, pop, pop” of the wood and plastic was an unpleasant noise.

The pro went over some of the basics: the front part of the court (the first seven feet) is known as the non-volley zone and most often called the “kitchen”. You can step into the kitchen to return a ball that bounces, but you can not step into the kitchen as you volley a ball in the air. That rule proved to be a challenge for me for some time since I liked to play close to the net in tennis doubles!

The games were friendly and the first team to score eleven points was declared the winner. That pair would advance to the next court up and split their partnership and play with the team that had lost the previous game played on that court. In other words, winners move up and split. Losers stay and split.

We played game after game and I won many of them, mainly because of my tennis skills as a long-time player and teaching professional. The other rule that threw me was the two-bounce rule. The serve is hit underhand style, diagonally (cross-court) into the service box. That is one bounce. The return of serve is hit back over the net and that is the second bounce. After that, any hit can bounce, but more importantly, be hit out of the air, known as a volley.

As a serve and volley tennis player, I broke this rule often, that night and for a long time after. In pickleball, the underhand serve doesn’t not give that team much advantage and the receiving team advances up to the non-volley zone after their return of serve giving them the advantage of first to the front of the court. (Most of the action in pickleball is at the front of the court!)

After a couple of hours, I was happily exhausted. I met a lot of fun pickle ballers. I learned a lot from Laurel and the pro. And I saw an opportunity to learn a new game and activity that I would be automatically good at! Pickleball has an easy learning curve. One can begin playing a real game in short order. Tennis players know how to get a ball over the net, and have to make adjustments of a paddle and a hard plastic ball with holes rather that a racket (longer that a paddle) with strings and a fuzzy ball.

My competitive juices began to flow that evening. I returned my beginner paddle to the bucket and helped dismantle the portable net and place the parts into a long carrying case. I said my goodbyes to my new friends and said I would see them the following Wednesday evening.

When I got home, I sent a note to the cousin-in-law saying I tried pickleball and liked it! He promptly asked me to be his partner in the future! Later that night, we sent our son away to a wilderness program. It was the most difficult thing ever.

Now six years later, my son is in a better place. We all have worked hard to make improvements. I mark that difficult anniversary with a happier one since it was the day I first played pickleball! It helped me with my self-care and showed me how fun learning a new game was as a sixty-year-old tennis pro.

Fast forward to this week. My sister and tennis companion for fifty years, Carrie, and I have a YouTube channel called Z Sisters Pickleball filled with videos on how to play and improve your pickleball games. We are IPTPA and USPTA pickleball pros. Carrie is the NorCal head coach developer testing tennis pros as they begin wanting to teach pickleball as well as tennis. I am her assistant and see how much fun tennis players have with the game of pickleball.

I have said over and over, I will never be a better tennis player than I once was, but I will be a better pickleball player, as I continue to work on my game and help others with theirs!

Quick History of Pickleball

My question to you: have you played pickleball? It is America’s fastest-growing sport. Here is a short video of the history of pickleball.

Happy 6th Anniversary to Me!

Happy anniversary to me on six fun-filled years of learning and improving and competing in pickleball. It’s been life-changing in so many ways.

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