Salvation by Pickleball
Pickleball saved me during the pandemic — literally and figuratively. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in late 2019, I desperately needed to lose weight and exercise more. Discovering the fun racquet sport of pickleball turned my life around.
Pickleball is mash-up of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It’s a fun sport for all ages and athletic abilities that can be played indoors or outdoors, either by singles or pairs. It’s played on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Players use wooden or composite paddles and plastic balls with perforated holes.
The goal is to get the ball over the net and prevent your opponent from hitting it back. The game has its own unique terms:
- kitchen refers to the non-volley zone
- dinking is a soft shot over the net into the opponents’ non-volley zone
- scoring zero points means you’ve been pickled
- players are picklers
Currently, there are more than 2,000 people playing pickleball in Brevard County. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA), pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. The group reported that U.S. pickleball in 2020 surged to 4.2 million active players, an incredible growth rate of 21.3% from 2019.
While the core audience is 50+, more families and young people are beginning to play. Griselda Allen, a USA Pickleball Ambassador based in Brevard, says her “passion is growing the youth pickleball program, as this will be the future of the sport.”
The need for more courts in Brevard prompted clubs, churches and community centers to convert courts from other sports for pickleball play. Currently, a campaign is underway to add six new pickleball courts at Jimmy Moore Tennis Complex in Melbourne.
The explosive growth of pickleball can be attributed to its:
- fun and addictive nature
- low cost of entry
- accessibility to all ages and levels
- ability for players to progress
- sense of community
Celebrities like Ellen Degeneres have embraced it, and the Chicago Cubs turned their bullpen at Wrigley Field into a pickleball court.
Local pickleball player Janie McDonald says her favorite thing “is when new folks show up on the courts, people simply say ‘what’s your name and do you want to play?’ Nobody cares about what you do or did for a living or about how many kids or grandkids you have….they just want to play.”
What’s not to love about that?
Look for these Facebook groups:
- Space Coast Pickleball
- Cape Canaveral Pickleball Friends
- Cocoa Beach Pickleball Friends
- Pickleball on the Space Coast Juniors
Every Tuesday, 9-10 a.m., Rockledge Country Club (all levels)
Every Thursday, 6-8 p.m., Jimmy Moore Tennis Complex (beginners)
Every second Friday, 5-6:30 p.m., Jimmy Moore Complex (juniors age 9-17)
Certified Pickleball Instructors:
Keri Keen, 410-422-1930 (Rockledge Country Club)
Griselda & Steve Allen, 321-863-8402 (Jimmy Moore Tennis Complex)
Mike Westcott, 904-955-2440 (North Brevard)