A lot of people think pickleball sucks. I’m not one of them…usually.
It was bound to happen.
I’m just amazed it took 13 months.
I showed up for my usual pickleball open play.
And I sucked.
Not only that, I didn’t even have fun.
I spent two hours losing point after point, game after game. Balls sailed long. My body language was pitiful. And the entire time, I kept thinking, “Pickleball is the dumbest game in the world.”
Anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows that’s not how I really feel. As an ambassador for the sport, I think the pros outweigh the cons. But every sordid love affair is entitled to a bad night or two.
Since I know the pickleball haters are out there, let’s examine why people think pickleball sucks.
It’s Not Tennis
Long-term tennis players often have difficulty accepting that pickleball is a different sport. The never-ending debate between tennis and pickleball players continues as more people cross over from tennis to pickleball. It’s true that both sports share some roots, but the fact that they have distinct rules and playing styles should be enough to set them apart. And it’s not a marriage, it’s OK to love two sports! Imagine having to choose between baseball and football?
The “pickleball” moniker sounds ridiculous to some people, making it hard for them to take the sport seriously. This might be a trivial issue, but it’s a stumbling block for those who can’t get past the unusual name.
Known for its unique “pop” sound that can climb as high as 55 decibels, pickleball is not for the noise sensitive. While it has never bothered me, there are well-documented community battles and even lawsuits to tamp down the sound of America’s fastest-growing sport. Whether you suffer from hyperacusis or simply don’t like a a barrage of popping sounds, the game’s noises puts it in the sports doghouse for some.
The Smaller Court
While pickleball’s smaller court size can be a positive aspect for some, others might feel restricted by the more compact playing area. Those who enjoy the freedom to roam in tennis might feel a bit claustrophobic on a pickleball court.
The Underhand Serve
Pickleball requires an underhand serve, which can be a bitter pill for those who have mastered the art of powerful overhand serves in tennis or badminton. The underhand serve purposefully takes away the serve as a game-deciding advantage to make the game accessible to as many people as possible.
The Double-Bounce Rule
In pickleball, the ball must bounce once on each side before volleys are allowed. This can be a source of frustration for eager players who are used to quick, aggressive plays in other racket sports. If you are coming over from tennis, it takes a few matches to get used to.
The Non-Volley Zone (Kitchen)
The “kitchen” or non-volley zone in pickleball is an area near the net where players cannot volley the ball. This rule is designed to prevent aggressive net play and encourage longer rallies. However, it can be an annoyance for those who love to dominate at the net.
The Social Aspect
Pickleball is known for its friendly and social nature, with players often chatting and laughing during games. While many people appreciate this camaraderie, others might prefer the more competitive and intense atmosphere of sports like tennis or squash. Pickleball can be intense, but it sometimes takes some time to track down the games that suit your style.
The Scoring System
When I took my first pickleball lesson, the instructors advised, “the hardest part about pickleball is learning how to keep score.” They wisely had us steer clear of the scoring convention until the end of class. Also, in pickleball, you can only score points when serving, and games are played up to 11, 15, or 21 points. This unique scoring system might be a turn-off for those who are used to the more traditional scoring methods of other sports.
Pickleball Growth Is Aggressive
With the sport’s phenomenal growth, many cities are converting idle tennis courts to pickleball courts, and residential communities are adding pickleball facilities. We’ve even seen Central Park and Fenway Park get in on the dinking action. This can be frustrating for avid tennis players and non-pickleball-playing residents who have to compete for court time or deal with extra traffic and higher costs.
It Isn’t a Workout for Everyone
While pickleball offers health benefits and can be a good workout for many people, it may not be enough for those who crave more intense physical activity. I generally burn 600 calories an hour and get my heart into the cardio zone, but it’s not always easy to get there.
Pickleball is often associated with older players, leading to a stereotype that the sport is only for seniors or retirees. This perception can deter younger individuals from trying the sport, while older people might feel self-conscious about embracing a game that makes them “feel old.”
Avoiding a “Fad”
Whether it’s overexposure, a fear of conformity, worrying about rapid obsolescence, or thinking that “pickleball is the new crypto,” many people actively steer clear of something rapidly adopted by the masses since it loses its “cool” factor.
The reasons people might dislike pickleball often stem from personal preferences, preconceived notions, or resistance to change. For every person who dislikes the sport, there are countless others who have found a new passion, community, and source of enjoyment in pickleball.
That’s me, ‘hi.’
As an ambassador for the sport, I encourage everyone to try pickleball with an open mind. It’s okay to have off days or even feel frustrated sometimes – that’s just part of the journey. Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about having fun, staying active, and connecting with others. So, let’s embrace the quirks and unique aspects of pickleball and celebrate the joy it brings to so many people. And who knows? You might just find yourself falling in love with this “dumb” game after all. And if you still think pickleball sucks, all good, no hard feelings.