Could pickleball be your new sport?

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What do you get if you mash tennis, badminton, table tennis and squash together? You get pickleball – a sport that’s ideal for seniors and growing in popularity here in New Zealand.  

With nearly 60 playing locations now set up around the country, even if you haven’t heard of pickleball until now, there may well be a club near you.

Pickleball is played on a court similar in size to a doubles badminton court. Paddles made of wood or composite material are used to hit a plastic wiffle ball over a net and the game can be played in or outdoors. It touts itself as being an ideal sport for grandparent and grandchild to play – and even compete – together.

Originating in the US in the 1960s, the sport came about when three dads on Bainbridge Island in Washington state tried to find a way to entertain their kids, making use of an old badminton court and whatever bats they had lying around. They wanted something the whole family could play together.

Theories differ over where the name ‘pickleball’ comes from, with one theory suggesting it was the name of one of the founder’s dogs. Whatever its origins, the game has stood the test of time, making its way to New Zealand just under 10 years ago.

Pickleball New Zealand Association Hawkes Bay representative Ange Brady says they have eight to 80+ year-olds playing at their club.

“It definitely is a sport for all ages,” she says.

“It’s not so taxing on your body, but ultimately it is competitive, and it can be very competitive,” Ange says.

But it’s not only the sport’s ability to keep people of all ages fit and active that makes it attractive, Ange says. It’s also a very affordable sport. Paddles are often supplied by clubs or are relatively cheap to buy, and fees are kept at affordable levels to ensure the sport is accessible.

“It’s also incredibly good for people’s mental health because of the community. You get to a certain point in life and it’s very hard to make new friends. You can feel quite isolated. But there is a great community out there who all play and compete on the court, but are a great community off the court. They look after each other.”

What’s more, you don’t need to have any particular skills to pick it up and be competitive.

Ange says that having been a ballet dancer, she struggled to find a sport that suited her until she found pickleball at age 42.  Now she wouldn’t be without it.

You can find more details about pickleball in NZ here.

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