WASHINGTON — Just what the heck is pickleball? With a name like that, the sport both demands and requires an explanation. And like any great story, it all starts with the family dog.
One day in 1965, former Rep. Joel Pritchard was playing with his children in the badminton court his yard on Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Using the space and materials available to them (namely rackets and a whiffle ball), they improvised a tennis/badminton hybrid, allowing for a competitive game without nearly as much scampering around that everyone could partake in. When the ball would get away, it would be retrieved by the family’s cocker spaniel, Pickles.
So was born pickleball.
Roughly 50 years and 11 million players later, the growing sport has its own national governing bodyand has made its way to the District, with three D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) centers hosting lessons and open play as part of a pilot program for those interested in picking the sport up. While the game has grown in the Northern Virginia suburbs over the past couple years, this is the first organized version of the sport in Washington itself.
The rules and gameplay are pretty easy to grasp on a basic level for anyone with a tennis or Ping-Pong background. One player serves to the other in the opposite quadrant of the court, and the two players hit the ball back and forth over the net. But there are a couple additional provisions to keep the game at a slower pace.