One of the most prevalent Pickleball misconceptions is that only older folks who are long past their physical (knee, hip, elbow, hands, eyes, brain...) warranties, settle for the slower pace of Pickleball. Not so!! In fact the average age of North American players last year was 47.5 for core players and 33.6 years for casual players.
This is best exemplified by a recent visit to a Milton Ontario Pickleball Association social round robin with my son. Looking at the truly mixed retirement and younger crowd, we thought that they would be easy pickings. However, we didn't win a single game so remember that old adage - don't judge a book by it's cover!! Pickleball is for everyone - young and old, athletically talented or not so much, families and singles, men, women and kids of all shapes and sizes! Myth #4 below touches on this counterpoint as well.
Myth #2 – Pickleball Doesn’t Require Much Movement or Skill
Not the case! If you have played at any level you know that Pickleball is a mix of chess in terms of placement, planning and strategy, and athletics with physical movement at all times and in every direction. The more you play and improve, the more there is to learn which is a challenge that makes it so much fun. You have to anticipate an opponent's shots, move quickly to the "kitchen" (front no-volley area on your side) or run back to counter a volley or lob, or side to side as your opponent tries to move you uncomfortably to all the extreme edges of the court. We measure 875 to 1,000 calories per 2 hour doubles matches depending on level of play. Makes room for a couple of pints or glasses of Pinot Grigio after!
Myth #3 – Pickleball isn’t Competitive
Again not true!! Mostly a doubles game, things can get really competitive at any level and mix of players, especially in doubles play as there are 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, 75 - 80% played at/in the "kitchen" (higher level of player required!) until someone hits an attackable ball, then things open up with fierce volley's back and forth. Ask World ranked #5 and proud Canadian Steve Deakin if the game is competitive? Obvious answer here is an emphatic "yes". Major competition has just begun to open up with: Pickleball professional leagues such as APP, PPA and MLP with world level competitive athletes; new dedicated expansive facilities everywhere; tournament coverage including streaming services and YouTube; many clinics for beginners and advanced players online or in person; and, major sponsors such as Head introducing new technologies. Given Pickleball is "TV friendly" much like tennis is (and squash is not) and fun to watch, I predict that Pickleball's growth momentum will exponentially increase in the future.
Myth #4 – The More Athletic Players Always Win
At a recent Hollyburn Country Club tournament, my partner and I came up against a 9 and 13 year old boys team who had made it into the final rounds. My partner was taking it easy at first (to be polite) and they were winning - with an audience of friends and family gathered to watch these seniors get beaten up by young boys of our grandkids' age! I am guessing that only our experience and "maturity" won the day in the end...for at least this year.
Therefore, the required elements of Pickleball call for a wide range of strategies which allow players of different ages and athletic ability to excel. Ball speed is a great example. The Pickleball Guide says that a tennis ball can reach speeds of up to 163 miles per hour (262 km/hr) while in play, but pickle balls move significantly slower, with the hardest shots moving at only around 30-40 miles per hour (48 to 64 km/hr). This more relaxed pace might seem to suggest that Pickleball is easy, 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 "bangers", but less experienced players, to the cleaners with relative ease...after realizing that they need to be strategic as the above example shows!
These are my first 4 of 10 Pickleball myths especially made for Valentine's Day 2022 and our love of the game, with another 6 to come so stay tuned!