Pickleball is an exciting, fast-paced, and addictively fun racket sport that’s recently seen a huge upswing in popularity not just in the United States but all over the world.
It also happens to be the subject of many misconceptions.
People have some pretty strange ideas about pickleball, many of which couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re here to dispel some of the most pestiferous pickleball myths out there and give you a more accurate sense of what this great game is all about.
Myth #1 – Pickleball is for Old People
One of the most frustrating pickleball misconceptions floating around among the uninitiated is that it’s just a way to keep seniors moving once they’ve entered their twilight years.
While it’s true that pickleball has long been a staple of retirement homes and assisted living facilities because of its active yet low-impact nature, visit any pickleball court and you’ll find people of all ages playing hard and having a blast.
That’s one of the best things about pickleball - just about anybody can pick it up and take part in the excitement. You could get your whole extended family together for a rousing game of pickleball. We strongly encourage you to do so!
With devotees of all shapes, sizes, ages, and physical circumstances, it’s safe to say that pickleball is truly for everyone.
Myth #2 – Pickleball Doesn’t Require Much Movement
Most people who buy into this myth are used to watching tennis, which, despite its surface similarities, is a different sport altogether.
Pickleball may not involve the same breakneck back-and-forth that a professional tennis match does, but it’s anything but a stationary sport. Not only do both arms stay in constant motion, but you also have to be ready to dart forward and backward and side-to-side to return a serve, counter a volley, or make a dramatic save at a moment’s notice.
Beyond bodily movement, pickleball also keeps your senses and your mind in a heightened state. Your eyes are following the ball and surveying the boundaries of the legal play zone, your ears are listening for the whack! that indicates a successful hit, your subconscious is calculating where your opponent’s next shot will most likely land, and your reflexes are poised to strike when the time is right.
Myth #3 – Pickleball isn’t Competitive
This is another common pickleball myth that’s laughable to anyone who’s ever actually participated in the sport.
As any longtime player will tell you, a game of pickleball can make for some pretty fierce competition. It’s round after round of rapid-fire, back-and-forth bursts that only end when one player makes a critical mistake or executes a particularly skillful maneuver.
This is especially true when you’re playing doubles, as there’s twice the number of players to keep up with and half the room to move around.
An intense pickleball rally can last for literally hundreds of shots. If you don’t think that kind of pressure stokes a player’s desire to win, you’re way off track.
If you need further proof of just how competitive pickleball can be, consider that the sport has an official governing body (The International Federation of Pickleball, or IFP) and a rankings list of pro and semi-pro players.
Try telling one of the top-5-ranked players that you think what they do is dull and see what kind of reaction you get.
Myth #4 – You Don’t Need Special Equipment to Play Pickleball
On the contrary, pickleball calls for specially designed gear just like any other racket sport.
First off, you have the paddle, which is something like a ping pong paddle, only larger and lighter to facilitate quick movements and provide a high degree of rebound.
Then there’s the ball itself, which is basically an oversized Wiffle ball made of strong polymer that features 26-40 round holes for increased air resistance.
Pickleball is even played on a unique kind of court. A standard pickleball court is the same size as a doubles badminton court - 20 feet by 44 feet, to be exact - and has markings similar to those you’d see on a tennis court. The net dividing the two halves of the court has a height of 34 inches in the center and 36 inches on the sidelines, making it shorter than both regulation tennis and badminton nets.
Simply put, pickleball is not a modified version of tennis or badminton. It’s a self-contained sport with its own rules, equipment, and playing venue.
Myth #5 – The More Athletic Player Always Wins
If pickleball were just like tennis, then the player with a stronger serve, faster feet, and greater endurance would always win. Because of the way the game is played, however, pickleball encourages a wide range of strategies and makes it possible for many different types of players to excel.
Ball speed is a great example. A tennis ball can reach speeds of up to 163 miles per hour while in play, but pickle balls move significantly slower, with the hardest shots moving at only around 30-40 miles per hour.
At a glance, this more relaxed pace might seem like child’s play, but the reality is that slowing things down forces you to nail your timing, hit with precision, and get into a solid rhythm. If you can’t do those things, you’re as good as pickled.
It’s not at all unheard of for veteran pickleball players to take younger and fitter but less experienced players to the cleaners with relative ease.
Myth #6 – Pickleball isn’t for Me
This is perhaps the most unfortunate pickleball myth of them all. If you think you wouldn’t enjoy playing pickleball, we can almost guarantee that you’re flat-out wrong.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: pickleball is for everyone. That means men and women, preteens and retirees, hardcore athletes, and people who have never played a sport in their lives. If you like having fun, then you’ll love pickleball. Period.
Still not convinced? Pick up a paddle and play a few games. After all, pickling is believing.