By: Alexis Harborth Photo by: Rachel Benavides
Locals and neighbors from across the region are having a ball with a sport rapidly captivating our community. Pickleball is a paddleboard sport combining elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton, and is like “table tennis on steroids,” according to Ronald Elizondo, tennis director at the Al Kruse Center. Two to four people play pickleball in matches that last only 20 minutes per game, on average.
With many competitive sports, such as tennis, players hone their skills and abilities through hours of lessons, practices, and games. Tennis matches typically require at least two hours, sometimes more, to play. That means the comparative ease of pickleball play and its quick game time allow practically anyone to jump in and play. It is also less physically demanding than other sports. “It’s a bigger ball and a bigger paddle, and it’s a court shorter than a normal tennis court. So, it’s easier on your body, and it’s fun,” says Elizondo.
“I first heard about pickleball about a year and a half ago,” Elizondo explains. After playing it, he decided to bring the game to the Al Kruse Center, where it became an instant success. “Since then, for the past 14 months, it’s been busy every single morning. Every day we have people playing.” Of those players, Elizondo says he sees all ages on the court. “I’ve seen people from their 20s to 70s come down to play.” He also noticed it has been an ideal sport for a quick afternoon activity.
“Pickleball is an easy pick-up game. You can play a few quick games on your lunch break, and then head back to work.”
Getting started is as easy as showing up; a reservation or team is not required. Those interested can head to the Al Kruse Center, where you can buy or rent the balls and paddles and connect with other players to join in on a game. However, if you prefer to go during a dedicated pickleball time, the center has begun a social league on Thursdays called “Cero Cero Dos,” which is Spanish for the pickleball term “0-0-2.” It refers to the start of each game, where the score is zero on both sides, and how the serve will go to the other side – or second server – when lost.
There are five main rules of pickleball, a couple of which are similar to basic rules of many sports – the ball must remain inbounds, the player must follow proper serving rules, etc. Some rules are unique to pickleball, like the “two-bounce rule,” in which the ball can only bounce once on your side. There also has to be one bounce of the ball on each side of the serve and when the serve is returned. Also, the pickleball game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points. The players must win by at least two points, so if a player is at 11 and the other is at 10, the game will continue. One of the most critical aspects of pickleball is that a player can also only score a point while serving.
While many enjoy this sport casually, others are interested in taking their gameplay to the next level and have begun participating in the tournaments being held at the center. A recent regional tournament had more than 85 people in it – and Elizondo thinks it’s only growing from there.
Pickleball is a perfect outdoor activity, taking hold just in time for summer. Elizondo hopes everyone will come by the Al Kruse Center to give it a try and see what the buzz is about. He’s confident that – like many people – one game, and you’ll be hooked.
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