One of the first things we discovered when we retired and moved to Southern Utah, is that It is almost mandatory that you learn to play pickleball.
Pickleball: the fastest growing sport
If you’re under 50, you’ve probably never heard of pickleball. While the game can be played by any age, seniors have become the driving force behind the game’s growth.
It’s a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Played on a court half the size of a regulation tennis court, pickleball is a fast-paced (sometimes) sport involving hand-eye coordination, footwork and agility.
You use a paddle, much like ping pong, or table tennis. The ball is a hard, plastic wiffle-type ball. The object is to serve into the opposite court and then score a point when the opponent fails to return the ball on the serve or the subsequent play, must like tennis. Games usually go to 21 points with the winner having to have at least two more points at the end.
The scoring and rules are different than tennis. I won’t go into the details, mainly because I don’t totally understand, or remember them. I leave that to the experienced players to keep score for me.
You can play with two people or four, often with mixed, men-women teams. Many former tennis players have taken up the sport because it’s a “step down” from tennis with the smaller courts.
I used to play tennis and even taught my younger brother to play. He later became a tennis teacher for younger kids in his area. So, I fit that demographic.
St. George is a hotbed for pickleball
The first courts in Utah were built at Sun River, a mostly retirement community south of downtown St. George. There are 14 courts at the complex with benches and lights for nighttime play.
According to the Washington County Parks and Recreation Department, there are more than 40 recognized courts in the county. But that doesn’t count the many subdivisions in the area that have converted their tennis court(s) for pickleball. The smaller dimensions are taped off for the boundaries on existing tennis courts. The tennis court net is higher than official pickleball courts, but for neighborhood play, most don’t worry about that minor detail.
In tournaments, the action can be very fast paced. However, in our complex, the action is a little slower paced with retired, or semi-retired neighbors playing several times a week.
When we moved here a year ago, my neighbors invited me to play pickleball with them. But I haven’t played in months, mainly because of my schedule and the summer months in Southern Utah can be brutally hot.
However, I played quite a bit when we first moved here. I found the game a lot of fun and not nearly as exhausting as tennis, because you’re only covering half the distance.
Some of my neighbors take it very seriously, however. And, the women are just as competitive as the men, often being better.
One of the neighbors bought his wife a very expensive, composite material paddle for her birthday last year. She’s never played or used it. But he has.
Another, over-zealous neighbor, severely injured his knee while chasing the elusive ball and was out of action for several months. Falls and scraped knees and elbows are a common occurrence.
Now that the weather has cooled off again, I may venture back onto the court. I’ll need some form of exercise because some 80,000 “snow birds” invade our scenic area during the cooler months, and the golf courses are booked solid most of the time.
I’m sure the pickleball courts will face the same crowded conditions. Because, if you live here, you’ve got to play the game.
– Ryan from St. George, Utah, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).