Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. If you're looking for an easy sport to pick up that's loads of fun and inexpensive, pickleball is the sport for you.
After playing 29 USTA league tennis matches in 2022, my shoulder, knees, and feet began to break. The wisest thing would have been to take time off to heal.
However, I need to play sports to feel happier. If only there was a low-impact sport that also has a wonderful community. Enter pickleball!
Let me share with you why pickleball is one of the best sports today. I'll also share some downsides, explain the rules and suggest some equipment.
Why You Should Play Pickleball
1) Pickleball is easier on the body.
Pickleball is a low-impact sport that can be played by more people. You will regularly see people in their 60s and older play pickleball because they can. The court size is only 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, or about 1/4th the size of a tennis court. Hence, there is much less ground to cover.
Due to the smaller court and slower pace, you don't have to be fit to play pickleball either. Of course, being fit helps, but it's not a prerequisite to play.
I estimate pickleball has only a 40% impact on your body vs tennis. As a result, you will experience fewer injuries for the same amount of time you spend playing. Alternatively, you can play pickleball two-to-three times longer than you can play tennis before you start feeling similar aches and pains.
Just make sure to still warm up by stretching your legs, hamstrings, calf muscles, and back. Given pickleball is fun and easy to play, you might end up playing too much and overdoing your body.
2) Pickleball is more inclusive.
More people can play pickleball because it requires less space, is easier on the body, and there's a lower skill hurdle to start playing. Within two hours maximum, you'll be able to learn how to regularly hit a Pickleball back and forth with a friend.
I taught my 77-year-old father how to play pickleball within 30 minutes. He was the one who taught me tennis. Pickleball is also easier to teach young children how to play than tennis. I'd say learning how to play pickleball is as easy as learning how to play soccer.
Because pickleball has only recently become more popular, there is much less snobbery on the courts. There are few 5+-year veterans who aren't willing to play or drill with you.
Sure, I've encountered high-level players who didn't want to play with me when I first started out. One was even a guy my tennis doubles partner and I beat 6-1, 6-1 years ago. He didn't recognize who I was. I'm coming for you, Mark!
There was another time when I asked a good player at a public park whether I should put my paddle down to try and compete against better players. He said, “You could, but they'll look at you funny and may even walk away.” Ouch! But playing up is one of the best ways to get better.
In general, 95% of the Picklers I've encountered are quite friendly. Even if you're a high-level player playing with a low-level player, you can always work on different shots.
Another reason why pickleball is more inclusive is that you can play at public parks for free. You don't need to be a member of a private club to play. Golf costs $80+ a round and lift tickets for skiing/snowboard are now $150-$200 a day!
3) Short wait times.
Once you get to a park that has pickup pickleball, all you've got to do is put your paddle down to get the next game. If there are four or fewer paddles on the fence or leaning up against the net, then you've got next.
The longest you'll ever have to wait to play is about 15 minutes. But the average wait time is under 10 minutes. While you wait, you can stretch, check work e-mails, or meet new people.
For people who don't like to play and don't like to schedule meetings, pickleball is the best.
4) Easy to meet new friends.
Pickleball is mostly played as pickup doubles to maximize court usage. As a result, you can constantly meet new people in a relatively small amount of space. Due to relatively fast games that last around 10 minutes each, you're also frequently meeting new people. It's almost like speed dating!
Eventually, you'll find people you connect with. From pickleball, you'll discover shared interests like work, family, education, other sports, and more. If you're feeling lonely, there's no easier way to meet people of all types.
Within three months of playing pickleball, I've met a startup CPO, an unemployed college grad, a health and fitness instructor, many retirees with pensions or Social Security, a fellow starving writer, a couple of Googlers, and even a billionaire.
One of the greatest things about sports is that it doesn't matter who you are, how much money you have, or what you do. We're all equal on the court or field.
5) Inexpensive to play.
More pickleball courts are being painted on more public parks all across the country. You just have to show up and you can play for free.
Regarding equipment, you can buy a great starter paddle for under $60. I went with the Head Radical Elite. And I'm sure you can buy used paddles for as little as $20.
A three-pack of Franklin balls costs about $8 and can last over 20 games if you're a beginner.
As you get more advanced, you can buy more expensive paddles from Pursuit, Joola, and Selkirk.
6) Pickleball is great for your mental and physical health.
Getting sunshine and moving your body for at least 30-minutes a day is a must if you want better health.
When I sustained painful tennis injuries, I felt more grouchy when I could no longer hit. Even though I made lemonade by writing more posts and recording more podcasts (Apple), my creative activities only replaced about 65% of the joy I gained from playing sports.
Pickleball will give you something to look forward to. And when you look forward to doing something, like going on a fabulous vacation, you'll also get more excited with anticipation.
Perhaps you'll want to work on your backhand dinks. Or maybe you'll want to work on your spin serve. Having something to look forward to brings joy!
If you continue to eat the same, the more you exercise, the better shape you will get into. Thanks to pickleball, I was able to finally lose five pounds after five years in a row of failing!
Here's the ideal weight chart by height, sex, and frame if you're interested.
7) Excellent couples activity.
If you're looking for a new activity to do with your significant other, pickleball is a great solution. Given the game is so easy to pick up, even if one partner is much more athletic than the other, you'll be able to have fun quickly.
After playing together for a while, you can each split up to play with new people. Due to short games, you can then partner up to play against another pair. You can probably find new couples to play with as well.
15 years ago, I tried to regularly play tennis with my wife who is a beginner. However, after five sessions, we threw in the towel. I wasn't having much fun and she felt too much pressure. However, with Pickleball, we're both having a lot of fun.
As a parent, one of the biggest conundrums I've discovered is that most parents don't play sports, yet most parents aggressively push their kids to play sports. What happened? Pickleball can help bridge this inconsistency because it's so easy to learn.
8) Wonderful work from home activity
One of the best things about working from home is not having to work as much. Work life balance is so much better without a commute and endless meetings.
As a fake early retiree, I've been able to regularly play between 10 am until 2 pm during the weekdays. During this time, I've met and seen plenty of under 35-year-olds playing.
Because you don't have to wait longer than 10-15 minutes to play a game, people with day jobs can easily play several games in one or two hours. If you are a quiet quitter who isn't interested in aggressively climbing the corporate ladder, pickleball is for you!
If I was working in finance again, I'd try to get as many clients as possible to play. I'd offer them free instruction if they are new players. Then I'd take them out for a lunch and a beer after! What a perfect two-hour business outing!
Speaking of making money, you can also invest in pickleball and profit from the sport as well. Now that I’m a 4.5 pickleball player, I can charge $140 an hour teaching. Not bad for a side hustle whenever I need to make money.
The Biggest Downsides To Pickleball
Now that you're all pumped up to play pickleball, let me share some downsides of the sport as well.
1) Potential Injury
As with playing any sport, the biggest downside to pickleball is injury. I had a partner pop his calf muscle while lunging for a short ball. He was out for the next two months. I've seen people trip, fall, and not get up for five minutes. I've also met players with pickleball elbow.
Based on my sample set, the one common denominator for those injured is older age. Every injured person was over 55. Sometimes, our minds are stronger than our bodies.
Please remember to stretch and play within your limits. You can get injured at any age.
The other downside to pickleball is the noise. When you're playing, the sound of the ball hitting the paddle is pleasant. At least the noise doesn't bother you while you're immersed in the action. But if you happen to live near a pickleball court, the sound might drive you nuts.
Here in San Francisco, there's a popular park that hosts pickleball next to $20+ million mansions. I'm impressed the neighbors haven't put up a stink. But it's probably best for their reputation as it would look like entitled rich people complaining.
If a pickleball court suddenly gets drawn or built near your home, your home's value might decline by 5% – 15%. Some people will simply refuse to buy a home that's close to so much noise. It's kind of like how some people simply will not buy a home that has experienced a death or suicide.
3) Human conflict
Another downside to pickleball is conflict. When interacting with others, it is inevitable you will play with or against someone you don't like. There will be line-call arguments, bad sportsmanship, people who will ostracize you, partners who will blame you for losing, and more. It comes with the territory of playing pickup pickleball in a public park.
Just the other day I was playing with this guy who blamed me for not putting an overhead away. This is despite him making five errors in the last eight points. It would have been better if he had complimented our opponents about their great defense.
When you play with someone who has low emotional intelligence, it is not a pleasant experience. However, the good thing is you can easily find a new parter for the very next game.
You could join a private club to surround yourself with better-mannered people. However, private clubs cost money and there might not be one around.
4) You might get addicted
By definition, addiction takes loving something too far to the detriment of yourself and to others.
My shoulder has not healed during my time off from tennis because I ended up playing 8-10 hours of pickleball a week for two months. Now I'm even experiencing snapping hips on occasion.
When my 5.5-year-old didn't want to go outside to ride a bike after opening a present, I didn't put up a fight. Instead, I went to play pickleball without feeling much dad guilt. I tried! Before my addiction, I would have reasoned with him to come outside and play before the rain.
When I was injured in the past, I would spend more time writing Financial Samurai newsletters. I might have even sent more media outreach or business development e-mails. Now, even with an injury, I just go play with my left hand to save my right shoulder! Money be damned!
I'm assuming my pickleball addiction will eventually fade. But maybe not for a while as my next step is to play tournaments.
The Battle Between Pickleball and Tennis
Due to the growing popularity of both tennis and pickleball, there is a growing battle for court space. Even though four times more people can play pickleball in the space covered by one tennis court, I don't think tennis courts should be removed for pickleball courts.
The ideal solution is to build more pickleball and tennis courts. It's a similar idea to building more homes and making the permit process easier if the city wants more affordable housing. Of course, building more of both courts is easier said than done given they cost money and take time.
Hence, the second-best solution is to paint pickleball court lines on existing tennis and volleyball courts. Then have dedicated times for each sport, including reservations. Everybody makes a compromise.
For tennis players who are dissatisfied with the growth of pickleball, I say give the sport a try! You might be surprised at how much you enjoy the sport.
Below is a picture of the ultimate compromise: four dedicated Pickleball courts and one dedicated tennis court.
The community aspect of pickleball is my favorite part of the sport. Yes, you will encounter the occasional arrogant player who is overly competitive. But for the most part, the vast majority of people I've met playing pickleball have been great.
My hope is that pickleball sportsmanship continues to be top-notch. This means:
- Welcoming players of all skill levels who would like to play.
- Calling balls correctly and replaying a point if there is conflict.
- Providing tips, strategies, and rule clarification when asked.
- Not blaming your partner when they make a mistake, but encouraging them instead.
- Try to split the teams as evenly as possible to make the games closer.
- Being a gracious winner and loser.
At the end of the day, 99.99% of recreational athletes are not going pro. We're just playing to have fun, get some exercise, and meet some new people. Hence, the nicer we can treat each other, the better.
Personally, I plan to play pickleball until I die. I'm thrilled to have found a low-impact sport I can play in my 50s and beyond. My only regret is not trying the sport sooner. Long live pickleball!
Head Radical Elite – An excellent beginner-to-intermediate paddle for under $60. Paddles prices go up to $250. I've got the neon green version. You can check out Engage, Joola, and Selkirk paddles once you get better.
Franklin Balls – The balls used in official tournaments. Each ball should last you at least five games, if not much longer. Mark your ball so you don't lose it.
Primetime Pickleball – Great instructional videos on Youtube for beginners.
Enhance Pickleball – More great instructional videos on Youtube as you get more advanced.
Scoring system: There are three numbers to say before every serve. The first number is your team's score, the second number is the opponent's team score, and the third number is either a 1 or a 2, indicating the server in doubles. Games are to 11 and you must win by two.
You can only win a point when you are serving. A sideout is when the ball goes to the other team to serve. The starting team only gets to have one server, therefore, the server would say, “0,0,2” or “0,0, start.”
Readers, any pickleball players out there? What are some other great activities you can do with your significant other with dissimilar athletic skills? Are there any more upsides or downsides to pickleball I haven't mentioned?
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Featured image credit: Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships, Indian Wells Tennis Garden
38 thoughts on “Why You Should Play Pickleball: The Best Sport Today”
I am 75 and just had my first Pickleball game. I am definitely hooked
Any advice re proper shoes ?…
I used Rather flat boating shoes but willing to buy good suitable
Would tennis shoes work. ?
I hear about lots of ankle injuries.
Appreciate your thoughts
Get wide shoes for stability! And don’t lunge too much. Not worth getting injured. Reminds me to buy shoes for my dad.
Any good brand tennis court shoe is good for pickleball too. Avoid running shoes, basketball shoes, and your boat shoes too.
You will use the side support and low center-of-gravity of the court shoe to be stable and make quick spots and starts. Courts shoes will help keep you on the balls of your feet and prevent ankle rolling.
There are many wrist injuries from falling that are happening also.
Learn the footwork for the game and you will avoid falling injuries. Never run backwards unless you have had experience playing indoor badminton. If you do start to fall and can’t get out of it – tuck and roll.
As a 61 yr old tournament player, spot-on article. I drill/play 5 days a week trying ot get to the 5.0 level!
That would be an amazing accomplishment at over 60! And if you achieve the 5.0 rating, you will feel so satisfied.
Here is a post on reaching the 5.0 level when I was 39. It was a “fun” and challenging 5 years. But I much prefer 4.5 level at my age now.
Hello Sam. Been a reader and listener for years and recently bought your book and enjoyed it. Never commented on a post until now.
Back in August I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing…..Pickleball. This former athlete, weekend warriors had been running 4 to 5 miles a day. I then took up Pickleball because I thought it would be safer than basketball or tennis to play at my age. (Mid 40s)
Pickleball is fun and great to play with friends. But the potential to get hurt is certainly there. So everyone be sure to warm up and stretch and don’t go all out on the court.
If you stay injury free then Pickleball can be a great way to stay active and have fun especially in your later years.
I should have stuck with full court pick up basketball. It would have made for a cooler story. Instead now I get the response, ” what? You ruptured your Achilles aging Pickleball? That thing old people do? ” LOL
Oh no! Sorry to hear about that. Was it a particular movement or something that caused it? It’s a good reminder to do more stretching and strength exercises. Getting a major injury stinks.
Because I’m addicted to pickle ball, I just keep on playing beyond my bodies limit. But the bright side is that I learned how to play left-handed and that’s what I did for the past two days as I let my right shoulder heal.
Yeah it happened doing a sudden explosive movement from the baseline towards the net going for the ball and I suddenly went down without warning.
Probably should have warmed up more. Due to my competitiveness, I literally left it all out there on the court. Father time humbled me though. That is cool that you modified things and started playing left-handed.
All the best in playing the enjoyable sport of Pickleball. And I appreciate all the educational work you have done over the years. I am learned a lot from you Sam.
Ouch! Same thing happened to my 60 years old partner lunging for a short ball from the baseline. I heard a snap and it was his calf!
When I was playing softball, Young Gunz called me, lazy all the time for not diving for balls, and going all out on a sprint. But if I injured myself, while I still had a baby and a toddler, I wouldn’t forgive myself because I wouldn’t be able to play with them, chase after them, and let them up and play fly.
The guy that made fun of me the most ended up quitting softball all together once he had his own baby. Funny how that is!
Sam, your article is spot on! I live in a country club in South Florida, our 14 courts are constantly being used by our members, their children and grandchildren. All having a blast! There are several leagues that add to the enjoyment. Picklball is here to stay!
“Table Tennis” seems to be a better sport without the need for a big court and all the other downsides of pickleball.
You can play in the garage, basement, a large room, etc.
Pickleball is just a fad.
Table tennis is fun for sure. But for some reason, I find pickleball to be way more fun. The social aspect and being outdoors has something to do with it.
Went to Spin, a table tennis bar with fella dads. Was fun!
Instead of being a fad, I bet there is a 80% probability Pickleball will become an Olympic sport in the next 20 years.
Table Tennis is not as easy as Pickleball, not as social, not as much exercise and in my opinion not as fun. I’ve played both.
I am so glad I am able to play tennis at 60 years of age. Where we live, we regularly are able to fill our three commmunity courts with players. We are inclusive at all levels of play and have plenty of time for people to show up for pick up games. It is true that tennis has a higher learning curv, but the journey towards evolving into a good player has been quite rewarding for me. I consider doubles tennis to be a lifetime sport despite what the pickle ball community may claim.
I have nothing against pickleball. I have played it and found it a fun less demanding game.
My issue is with picklers trying to usurp tennis and basketball courts for their game, thus, pushing out already established popular sports. I see this happening, and it is a large source of contention within the community. Hopefully some balance may be reached in time where pickleballers have their own courts and not have to take away from other sports.
Yes, the battle between tennis and pickleball is growing here in SF too. Painting lines, having set hours of play for tennis and pickleball, being kind when a reservation comes, and finding new open space to build more types of courts are all solutions.
The people who play both regularly are very understanding. It’s one of those things where if tennis is not available, you can play pickleball! And if pickleball is not available, you can play tennis. Always winning.
Check out the shared courts in Erie, Colorado. We put eight pickleball courts on two tennis courts (and left the other two tennis courts alone). That’s 32 pickleball doubles players where there would otherwise be 4 or 8 tennis players.
I am 82 and play the sport several times a week, winter and summer. My situation is a little unusual in that my wife, a former college tennis player, is a better player than I am, despite my years of handball, racquetball, and squash. We try to play a game or two as partners as well as with everyone else on our 100+ player invite list.
Great article. We were in similar boat. Played tennis for decades, and started playing pickleball this year.
But lately we are playing mostly ping pong since it’s indoors so don’t have to worry about weather. It’s often raining or wet or windy or too hot or too cold to play outdoors where we live.
Hope to enjoy all 3 sports for a long time.
Good to hear Peter. I just realized something.. I was myopic about posting about pickleball during the winter. I’ve played regularly all December because I live in San Francisco and it’s between 55-62 degrees. So I just assumed every other reader can play during the winter as well.
But with 10,000+ flight cancellations in a week during the Christmas holiday, and even my mom-in-law facing a delayed/canceled flight risk, I still didn’t think about the timing of the post and now podcast episode.
That said, I feel so strongly about pickleball and finding something fun to do as we age that I had to publish.
After playing tennis for most of my life (I am 78 now) I took up pickleball, and found it much easier on my knees, hips and feet. However, my tennis experience prolonged my pickleball learning curve. It took me a couple of hours to get used to the different bounce, and months to get used to the serve, which is nothing like anything in tennis.
I think I can say I am addicted to the game. I expect to play for many more years, whereas I was getting to the end of comfortable tennis.
Fascinating that your tennis experience prolonged your pickleball learning curve. Most think it’s the opposite.
B/c of my shoulder injury, I GLADLY enjoyed learning how to and hitting dinks. Dinking all day long feels great! And that’s what most of the pros do during the game too.
I hate it when people say it’s a easy sport to pick up. Your dad taught tennis so it was easy for him to pick up. But for anyone with out a tennis, table tennis or some sort of athletic background it will take longer than 30 minutes to be decent.
How long did it take for you to pick up pickleball before you could regularly start hitting the ball with some consistency? Several of my friends who’ve never played tennis picked up the game easily within an hour.
Excellent overview Sam!
I’m 64, been playing since I retired over 2 years ago….I’m addicted and healthier because of pickleball!
I played tennis since I was 5 or 6 but after my 3rd rotator cuff surgery I’ve sworn off tennis. I felt like the long handled tennis racket with the ball ‘trampolining’ off the strings with the vibration played into my injuries. But I have not experienced any shoulder problems with pickleball…..just the a thought in my personal case.
The social part of this is great! Wonderful people everywhere that are always willing to assist or encourage newbies! At my age I can walk on any court to play and get some exercise and have fun at the same time.
Maybe if our politicians played pickleball they’d figure out how to interact with their opponents (soon to be partner in rec play rotation).
A better world, healthier world thanks to pickleball!
Great to hear Mike! 3rd rotator cuff surgery… ouch. I hope I don’t go down that route. It is amazing how much lighter on the shoulder and body pickleball is versus tennis. Glad you’re having fun!
Great to see you playing Pickleball, Sam. The fastest growing sport in America! This almost 50 year old started 6 months ago and I am absolutely addicted. Icing a grade 2 calf strain as I write this (boo!). Pick you spots carefully with the tournaments. Did my first a month ago. Came in 2nd in at level 3.5….but can be very competitive and less laughs than the local park. Good luck!
Ouch on the calf! I bet the tournaments are super competitive and have some unpleasant players.
There are tournament players who regularly play pickup pickleball at the public parks I play at, and they are much more amped up. And if you miss a ball, you can hear and feel their snarl.
The criticism / responses by your partner of your mistakes is always amusing, since they aren’t perfect themselves. This is low EQ at work.
I’ve played sports all my life.I played tennis for years since it took less time than golf. Now I play golf and kayak. My friend was playing pickleball so I thought I would give it a try. I was ok at it and played as few times. However since there is a lot of bending it hurt my back and knees so I quit playing. Anyway I’m 74 so enjoy it while you can.
Love this article and already share it with my family members. My husband and myself have been playing tennis for many years.
We start playing pickle ball TODAY with our college son. Went to a public park this afternoon around 2pm, there were over 50 people there. Wow!
This is the perfect message for us.
Thank you for sharing. Keep up the great works.
Ordered your book months ago, loved it after reading it.
Wonderful! Keep playing! It is such an awesome game for community and fun. So much less pounding on the body too.
Thanks for reading Buy This, Not That. Please rate it on Amazon if you get a moment. You might push me over the edge to write another!
Have fun dinking!
Hi Sam! Tandem bike riding, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, golf, cross-country skiing, bowling, and lawn bowling all come to mind as activities couples could consider.
Yay pickleball! Thanks for encouraging me to start! I’m looking forward to playing a couple times a week again once the kids are back in school in Jan. I don’t want to completely lose my backhand slice and my top spin serve. Although my consistency is still not there yet. hahaha
I’ve always wondered why it’s called Pickleball as the name has always seemed odd to me. So your post motivated me to finally look it up. The name stems from a reference to the “thrown-together leftover non-starters in the ‘pickle boat’ of crew races”. Some people say it came from a co-founder’s dog whose name was Pickles. But the dog was actually born 3 years after the game started. So the dog was named after Pickleball the game, not the other way around. lol
And I had no idea it was created way back in the mid 60s by 3 people looking for something to do during the summertime in Bainbridge Island, Washington. They first started the game using ping pong paddles and a perforated ball and then later began to design better paddles etc. Fun to learn something new everyday.
Here’s to lots of fun games in 2023 and not getting “pickled!” (losing 0-11)
30 pushups for you if you get pickled! If we partner together, we will do well!
“The name stems from a reference to the “thrown-together leftover non-starters in the ‘pickle boat’ of crew races”. Some people say it came from a co-founder’s dog whose name was Pickles. But the dog was actually born 3 years after the game started. So the dog was named after Pickleball the game, not the other way around. lol”
Please don’t take up pickleball and add to the problem. Writer glossed over the noise pollution problem from this “sport”. Anyone who is near a court will be subjected to hours upon hours of annoying popping sounds at detrimental decibel levels. Public parks should not host these courts. Not much exercise involved either.
I don’t like anybody having too much fun around me. They can go to Disney World if they want to have fun.
There is always one in every bunch. I live by the airport so
Can I shut them down because the planes make to much noise?
I used to play tennis casually for a long time… About 5 years ago I discovered pickleball and I never went back to tennis, I was hooked. I love the back and forth of the game. I like most raquet sports like raquetball, ping pong, paddleball etc.
With tennis you can’t just show up at a court and start playing with someone like you do with Pickleball. You can show up at 10am on a Saturday and can play for hours (doubles). The single game is different and how I started and will work up a lot more of a sweat. This is great for older folks for exercise, social interaction.
When I started playing it was hard to find courts, but now I see the dedicated courts and even celebrities buying teams.
Yes! The short wait times are the best! No need to schedule and can get in and out in 1-2 hours. For people who like fun and efficiency, pickleball is awesome.
I’ve heard so many things about pickleball but never really knew what it was about. It looks like a lot of fun. Sounds like an easy sport to pickup unlike tennis. I tried tennis before and got too frustrated with it. But I love racquet sports. Will try it out at my rec center after the holidays! Thanks for the motivation