Para-Pickleball for Beginners

On the surface, pickleball looks much like tennis or ping-pong. This sport, classified as a paddleball sport, is a jack of all trades, combining elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton. Two to four players are required for a game of pickleball. The basic gameplay involves hitting a ball much like a wiffle ball, over a net with solid paddles made of wood.

History of Pickleball

Traditional pickleball was invented around the mid-1960s on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) credits three men, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum for creating pickleball as a backyard game for family, specifically as a solution for their kids’ boredom with summertime activities. Pickleball was later adapted so that people of all abilities could play and is known as para-pickleball.

Pickleball: What’s in a name?

Even though “pickleball” is fun to say, the sport itself has nothing to do with pickles. The USAPA reports that there are multiple stories regarding the origin of the name of this sport, but no one knows the true origin. One theory that the USAPA presents is that Joel Pritchard’s wife said that she started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. The other theory, which is as fun as the name itself, is that the game was named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.

General Para-Pickleball Rules

Even though pickleball is comprised of aspects of other racquet sports, its differences are what make it distinctive. One similarity is the dimensions of the court, 20’ x 44’, making it the same dimensions as a badminton court. Another similarity to another sport, tennis, is that players in wheelchairs can play single or doubles matches.

This sport is inclusive compared to other general and adaptive sports, making it a game that people of all abilities can participate in. Teams can be made up one of two ways: a wheelchair player partnered with a standing player or doubles against a team of two able-bodied individuals.

Both in pickleball and para-pickleball, the ball is served diagonally. Points can only be scored by the side that serves and must clear the seven-foot non-volley-zone in front of the net. The ball must land in the diagonal service court. In order to win, you or your team must score eleven points and be leading by at least two points.

The official International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) rules contains a section on wheelchair rules, only applying to players who are wheelchair users. Since the wheelchair is considered part of the player’s body, all applicable rules that apply to a player’s body will apply to the wheelchair. However, there are some exceptions. One modification to the rules is that the front wheels of the para-athlete’s chair can cross the non-volley line and a double bounce is allowed specifically for the para-athlete. If you would like to know more about para-pickleball rules, you can check out the USAPA/IFP pickleball rules on their website.

Start Playing Para-Pickleball Today

Pickleball is increasing in popularity and is played in all 50 states. Even so, as it is a new sport, it may be difficult to find an established team to play with for fun. In this case, you may want to consider starting your own group.

You can start by getting in touch with a para-sport organization in your area to find potential candidates to play para-pickleball. Another option is pitching the idea of para-pickleball to the local sports and para-sports organizations.  It is important to mention that teams can be made up of a wheelchair user and an able-bodied player and that they can play against a team of two able-bodied individuals, as this can increase your chances of successfully starting a para-pickleball group.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: