Health

Pickleball and a passion for the Olympics

There's always been tennis. And totem tennis. But now there's pickleball. And it's touted as one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Pickleball is known as the Goldilocks of sport - not too strenuous, not too relaxed, but just right for those wanting social engagement, physical activity, and mental stimulation. It's played on a court one-quarter of the size of a traditional tennis court and is touted to be the fastest-growing sport in the world. It's now on Australian shores, where this former basketballer has taken to it with relish.

By Donna Reeves

When I was younger, all I wanted to be when I grew up was an Olympic basketball player.

Something about the Converse high-tops, the cool tracksuits and worldwide adoration was attractive to me.

Also, I loved chasing balls (not the ones on boys though. Those really never appealed.)

I tried my hardest to realise my dream. I practiced for hours, 7 days a week. I played for 3 teams, which made me happy but my mum very annoyed as she had to drive me everywhere.

I won best and fairest regularly.

But the problem, and it was a big one, was that I was very small. A good foot shorter than every other player on the court.

And unlike the TV brilliance that is Survivor, a good social game wasn’t going to compensate for my lack of strength or height. All the charm and manipulation in the world wasn’t going to make up for the fact that I was severely vertically challenged.

By the time I was 16, my dreams of Olympic basketball glory were well and truly shattered.

I accepted it with grace, if grace meant quitting every team and developing a secret loathing of tall people.

Never one to completely give up on a dream, every time the Olympics came round I’d watch obsessively to try and find a sport that I could play.

The years ticked by, as they do, and by 40 I knew my options were becoming severely limited.

I considered lawn bowls, which was a Commonwealth Games sport and I figured one day would be included in the Games that really mattered. But my parents played lawn bowls, and the clubroom politics were brutal.

They became so consumed with them that I literally banned them from talking to me about anything bowls.

Also, a game of lawn bowls takes forever and there is no guarantee that you won’t have to spend half a day talking and competing with someone who was very boring. Or a One Nation supporter.

Additionally, lawn bowls is played in summer with temperatures maxing out at 38 degrees, causing the oldies to drop like flies, and I wasn’t sure I had the internal fortitude to enter the killing fields which is the lawn bowls rink.

Which brings me to one of the fastest growing sports in the world; pickleball. Invented in the USA in 1965 by a couple of men wanting to create a game for their kids, pickleball ticks all the boxes for my last hope of Olympic glory.

4 pickleball courts can fit on a traditional tennis court and the game appeals to all ages, but especially younger and older people, according to s.

Anyone of any age can play - those just out of nappies or even those old enough to be heading back in to them.

It involves a ball. It is competitive and fast. Height helps but agility and strategy help more. And who doesn’t want to play a sport with the word pickle in it?

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court and is a cross between tennis, table tennis and badminton. You play with a paddle rather than a racquet and the ball is made of hard plastic with holes in it.

My first venture into the world of the pickle was encouraging.

There were players of every age, and although I wasn’t great, for a first timer I wasn’t bad.

I did get beaten by a 78-year-old timer, but that only gives me hope that with enough practice, determination and commitment, and with time on my side until pickleball becomes an Olympic sport, I may still fulfill my childhood dream of reaching the Olympics.

Citro sporting tip

Pickelball is growing as a sport - find out more on Picklepals.

Padel tennis - which is also played on a small court but uses a different type of racquet and ball - is also popular. Find out more on Padel.

The game is said to be named after Pickles, the dog, who kept stealing the ball and hiding it in the bushes when the game was first created in 1965.

Watch tennis legends play pickleball for ESPN in America.

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