Why Play Pickleball: Ten Reasons

What is this sport that is a craze in New York? What is pickleball? How would I usually describe it to friends? “Imagine a badminton court. Bring the net down to the height of the tennis net. Replace the racquet with what looks like an enlarged table tennis paddle made of plastic. The ball is plastic and bigger than a table tennis ball but smaller than a tennis ball. 

Why did I consider picking up this sport? I was persuaded to try this sport by my wife Jenny. She has been playing this for many years. Now that I have retired, I could join her. I grew to like it and now it has almost displaced my hiking and cycling hobbies. Here are a few reasons why.

First, it is fun. The fun is in the play, the people, the pleasure you feel when you execute a shot well that you never thought you had in you. Even if in the end the match was lost, you still felt good. 

It is challenging. It is an easy sport to pick up and start playing, but to master it and play well is quite a challenge. There are many skills to learn, each of them difficult to master at a high or consistent level. It can be frustrating when your progress is slow but exhilarating when others notice the improvement you have made.

You exercise without feeling like you are exercising. The first game I played I was totally out of breath. Now, after a year, I can play continuously for an hour without worry. My fitness has improved. I exercised without realising it because all I was conscious of was the fun of the play.

It brings you into contact with people. You get to be acquainted with a lot of people, mostly seniors, even though now this sport has captured the attention of the younger people. It is an opportunity to broaden your friendship circle and get to know more people who are of different social circles and religion from you. 

You can play this sport into your 80s. Some sports become unsuitable as you age. This sport can be played even into your eighties. I have seen two elderly men playing at the age of eighty and beating others younger than them. I could not believe they were in their eighties. Regular play in this sport keeps you young at heart.

It develops strength, flexibility and endurance. You get stronger in your legs and arms and core. You become more flexible as you will need to stretch every now and then before and after the game (warm ups) and during the run of game. Endurance is built up over regular practices over a period of a few months. You become agile and your reflexes are improved.

It is a team game. It is usually played in doubles format so there are four persons in every match of eleven points. The dynamics become interesting depending on who the two persons are. Having a partner to play with lessens the amount of running and coverage of the court. It also makes you more aware of the other’s playing style.

It is available free of charge for seniors. If you are above sixty, you do not have to pay for the use of the courts. For those below sixty the fee is about $18 a month (2022). However, by internal arrangement, we pay an agreed nominal amount for purchase of shared balls. 

You need to use your brain. With time and practice, skills and stamina can be developed, but what will help most is brainwork: learning strategies that will help you in your game. Knowing your opponents and their strengths and weaknesses helps you to play better against them. It is thus a thinking game too. Like most other team sports. 

Now for the tenth and final reason: It is not expensive to begin. All you need is a paddle. A new beginner paddle can be purchased for about $40 to $80. If you are willing to use a pre-loved paddle owned by someone in the pickleball group, this same amount may get you an intermediate or advanced paddle. The next investment would be to buy court shoes which are more suitable than running shoes (which most participants begin with). This money and time are well spent when you consider it as preventive health care. Better to invest your time and money in this sport than in medical care from poor health. 

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Joining My Wife In Pickleball

I have picked up a new sport: pickleball. My wife has been with this sport for decades and have often asked me to join her. Time never permitted me this luxury during my pastoral ministry. Now with more time at hand, I joined her and gave it a try. I liked it and discovered a few things about it.

  • This sport is getting popular in Singapore. In USA, it is attracting the younger adults, and convincing tennis players to convert to pickleball. This is very evident in YouTube, which  now has hundreds of instructional videos on pickleball skills,  and increased visibility of pickleball tournaments. The People’s Association introduced the sport decades ago to get the seniors to be active. I must say they have succeeded supremely in bringing seniors of both sexes, but particularly the ladies into this new sport.
  • This sport has elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis in it. I only needed a paddle (the racquet that looks like an enlarged table tennis paddle), and a pair of court shoes.
  • It is fun and exciting. You can play for 11 points or 15 points, and usually we played doubles, which makes teamwork a must. 
  • It is easy to pick up but takes time to master. I needed to do a lot of drills to train my muscle memory with new strokes and movements.
  • My tennis background helps as well as hinders. I had to unlearn certain rules, positioning, and my old habits of volleying often gets in the way of effective pickleball play.
  • It is a great aerobic exercise. When I first began, I was usually out of breath after two consecutive games. I had to run quickly up and down the court to make a return, or to get to the non-volley zone. My heart rate goes up and stays up when the game gets intense. It is good for my heart. It was so much fun, I forget that I ran a lot.
  • I need to be alert and react quickly to shots, because the court is smaller than a tennis court, and the balls come flying from the opponent’s court as quickly as it gets off my paddle. 
  • I got to meet new people, mainly adults in their 50s and 60s. Many of them were inspiring. Recently I saw a player who has played for more than twenty years. He is in his 80s, and he played very well, and with greater fitness than me. I hope I can reach his level of fitness. Already I have seen how playing this sport has increased my fitness, so much so I do not huff and puff during my hikes or rides.
  • Many sport centers and community clubs have pickleball as one of the sports they offer. I first played pickleball in a open air badminton court in Bukit Panjang, and an indoor court in Bukit Batok during the covid restrictions which limited us to four players a court and no intermingling with other groups. Now I play at Jurong West Sports Center, near the Pioneer MRT station.

It is good to have an additional common leisure activity that both my wife and I can enjoy together. My wife joined me in hiking long ago and we both still enjoy it. She tried cycling with me but is not as enthusiastic about it as I still am. Now that I have joined her in her interest and found it fun, we have an added common activity that we both enjoy. This can only be good and enrich our marriage and promote good health. 

If you want to picture what pickleball is like, have a look at this video from YouTube:

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