We’re Just ‘Pickled Dink’ to Play

Why we’re so manic for PICKLEBALL and how you can GET IN ON THE ACTION

ACCORDING TO the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), pickleball participation grew by a whopping 21.3% last year as Americans looked for new ways to stay active during the pandemic. That figure is part of a five-year trend that has seen pickleball evolve from its origins as a backyard knockabout game to a sport with Olympic aspirations.

It’s hard to believe but this year is the 56th anniversary of pickleball. It was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by three enterprising dads—US Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. Their children were bored with their usual summertime activities so they grabbed whatever they could find in the garage to create a mash-up of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. At first they used the standard 60 inch-high badminton net but later found that the ball bounced better on asphalt and lowered the net.

In the early years, no official name was assigned to the game but according to the Pritchard family, the game was named after a “pickle boat” where the crew is picked from among leftovers—like the left-over equipment they were using. They also had a dog named Pickles who liked to chase after the plastic ball, but the dog was named after the game, not the other way around.

A decade later, the game evolved from the hodgepodge of equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout North America and is now taking off in other parts of the world. Colorado is seeing a huge demand from “pickleheads” of all ages for more courts, clinics and clubs throughout the entire state. In fact, USA Pickleball estimates that there are roughly 3.5 million players across the nation, and of that total, about 56 percent are 35 years of age or older. Many schools’ physical education programs have even incorporated it into their curriculums so it’s truly everyman’s sport.

“Pickleball is the perfect mix of accessibility and fun. It is easier to pick up than tennis, and just as competitive. It’s a game where people of all ages can play as lightheartedly or as competitively as they’d like to,” states Gates Tennis Center PPR® Certified Coach Robert Leanard. “Competing in tennis is more physically challenging—you’re on a bigger court and hitting with more force—but I’d say (doubles) pickleball is more mentally challenging. There are so many subtle strategies and mind games that the longer rallies and non-volley zone provide.”


YOU’LL NEED paddles, balls, a court and three friends. Game-Set-Match, Inc. (denvertennis.net) can get you geared up with locations in Denver, Boulder, Centennial, Littleton and select tennis club locations.

TO PLAY, two teams (typically two people each) send the ball back and forth on a small court, separated by a low net. The serving team can score points, not the other side. The first side to score 11 points by a margin of at least two wins.

SERVES MUST BE diagonal and underhand, the ball needs to bounce on each side before a volley and players can’t hit when standing in a close-to-the-net area known as “the Kitchen.”

KNOW THAT “the Kitchen” is actually the Non-Volley Zone, and the only rule is no volleying in the Non-Volley Zone.

GET TO the Non-Volley Zone, and learn the 3rd shot drop!

LEARN HOW to dink! This short shot can force opponents to hit a weak shot back or to miss the ball altogether.

HAVE FUN, laugh lots and keep a positive mental attitude! “Pickleball will only keep growing. It’s accessible, fun, competitive, and space efficient enough to keep growing and attracting more players,” according to Leanard. “It certainly won’t replace tennis or paddle tennis, as they’re different games with different appeals. Lots of

young people are flocking to the game, which will help guarantee its long-term success.”


THE 2021 ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHAMPIONSHIPS in its tournament series and the 2021 Pro Pickleball Association (PPA) Pro Tour will be held at Gates Tennis Center August 10th – 15th. Events for this exciting tournament include pro and amateur skill levels. Some of the best men and women players in the world will be competing for the $50,000 pro prize purse. All levels are welcome to compete, spectate and be a part of this exciting tournament.

If you’re not up for competing, Leonard says, “spectators can expect to experience top-level pickleball by the best players in the world. This is not some random tournament played by Rufus and Dufus, this is the best pickleball in the world being played in Colorado. The top three men’s players in the world and the top four women’s players will be here including Ben Johns and Simone Jardim who are known to hit the ball 70 miles an hour from 14 feet away—it’s truly impressive.”


3300 East Bayaud Avenue, Denver

303.355.4461; Gatestenniscenter