December 10, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Cormac McCrimmon | Photo by Danielde Koning

Towards the end of Thanksgiving Break, my parents suggested we play a family game of pickleball. After getting over my belief that pickleball was a game for retirees recovering from knee surgery, I decided to play.

At the courts, a staccato of plastic balls on graphite racquets mixed with music and the voices of people enjoying summer in December. I couldn’t believe the turnout, or how much fun it was to play.

Pickleball has been around since 1965, but only recently became one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. Think of pickleball as a combination between tennis, badminton and ping pong.

If you’ve ever played tennis before, the small pickleball court makes you feel like a giant. Like other racquet sports, pickleball involves hitting a small, plastic ball over the net and past your opponents. The game is easy to learn, fast-paced, and extremely social.

Before you play, it helps to read or watch a video explaining the rules. Since you can only score a point on your serve, learning to call the score is perhaps the most confusing part. Each point begins with an underhand serve. Players return the serve and rally until the ball has bounced twice or is hit out of bounds.

Part of the fun of pickleball is its emphasis on volleying. Since the court is so small, getting to the net and putting shots away is much easier. However, players cannot stand within seven feet of the net, an area deemed “the kitchen.” Games can be played with two or four players. They are typically first to 11, win by two points.

Students can walk to courts located at Monument Valley Park. The nearby courts are often filled with other players. If it’s too busy, come back at night to play under the floodlights. If courts are full at Monument Valley, there are others located at Bear Creek Park and throughout the city.

The first couple of times that you play, it’s helpful to go with people who are also learning. While the rules don’t take long to figure out, it’s best to have a solid understanding of how to serve, volley and score before playing with others.

When you’re ready to put your skills to the test, they’re often other players at Monument Valley who are looking for opponents. Be ready to lose to people twice your age. Informal games take place most afternoons and evenings. According to locals, Saturdays are one of the busiest and best times to play.

Players ‘paddle up’ to join a game. Reserve your spot by adding your paddle to the fence on the west side of the courts. Once a court opens, you and your partner will play a single game against another pair. After the game, all four players rotate off the courts and allow different people to play.

The reasons pickleball has taken off across the country — it’s accessible, fun and social — are the same reasons it’s worth picking up a paddle. Getting off-campus and meeting other Colorado Springs locals offers a refreshing break from studying.

While there are a couple rules you must learn, practically anyone can learn to play at a proficient level. Finally, the game is humbling. You might have youth, fitness and agility on your side, but the pickleball court is a great equalizer.

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