If you’re looking for a fun and relatively inexpensive way to get outdoors and exercise, then pickleball might just be your next big sporting passion. With approximately five million players in the United States alone, pickleball is one of the fastest growing games in North America, and there is overwhelming support for a game that was invented for the first times in 1965.
In order to find out exactly what drives people to paddle climb, M&F researched two of the best pickleball players currently on the scene, Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin, so we can bring you a deep dive into the basics, the skills required, and the equipment needed to become king of the court.
Pickleball has come a long way from its origins on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, where it was developed by friends looking to keep their kids busy during school vacations. Nowadays, there are pickleball governing bodies all over the world. High-profile matches are shown on ESPN and CBS – and there’s even a dedicated pickleball channel, and the prize money is growing every year thanks to increased sponsorship revenue.
The The Association of Pickleball Professionals has started offering scholarships ranging from $25,000 to $125,000 in 2022. and Professional Pickleball Association players will have the chance to win a round of approximately $10 million in prize money in 2023, thanks to a merger between Major League Pickleball and League Vibe.
So, have we already caught your attention?
In its simplest form, pickleball is a paddle-based indoor or outdoor sport where individual competitors, or teams of two, hit a hollow pickle ball over a net. The game is similar to tennis but is played on a court that is one-third the size. In pickleball, all serves are underhanded and the winner is determined when 11 points are reached, but you must win by two clear points, so the game can be extended. Another difference with tennis is the fact that a team does not need to be serving to score points.
“I think part of the reason people might try pickleball, rather than other racquet sports, is how easy it is to learn and how social it is,” declared Catherine Parenteau, who is a three-time winner of the US Open Pickleball and 16-time winner of the PPA Tour from Montreal, Canada. “I believe most players who pick it up end up making friends for life, I know I have! It’s one of the things about pickleball that made me fall in love!
“It makes you feel like part of a community and it’s the best form of therapy,” says Tyson McGuffin, who is a five-time Grand Slam champion and four-time national tennis champion. “It’s less stuffy than most racquet sports, while still retaining its backyard feel.” McGuffin, a Washington native, is now a top-tier, multi-medalist pickleball star with the USAPA.
These two elite athletes love teaching the sport as much as they love playing, and will admit that their tennis abilities have provided a great springboard to picking up pickleball, but they maintain that it truly is a sport accessible to everyone. . “I think the hardest part of the game for me, at first, is what you would call the ‘soft game,'” Parenteau said. “That includes dinks (hitting softly on a rebound) and third shot drops (hitting softly from a height) which are very different from tennis, because I just wanted to hit everything hard!” Although pickleball has some funky terminology, it only adds to the feeling of being part of a subculture, once you master it. “If you want to avoid getting ‘marinated’, make sure you score at least one point against your opponent,” says McGuffin.
Since you will need to be able to turn on a dime, run, stop, and run again, you will need to ensure that you are wearing appropriate clothing similar to tennis or badminton. The paddle is also crucial to the game of pickleball, and as you would expect from these two experts in the field, Parenteau and McGuffin helped develop their own paddles. Yet both contestants can whole-heartedly agree that when it comes to footwear, they will choose the Skechers Viper pumps Everytime.
“Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, comfort, durability, and support on the pickleball court are all essential,” McGuffin says. “Skechers Pickleball shoes feature a Goodyear rubber outsole for improved traction, stability and durability on the court. Plus, its removable Arch Fit insoles will mold to your foot and provide incredible podiatrist-certified arch support.
“I used to compete in regular tennis shoes and they always felt so heavy and bulky,” adds Parenteau. “The Skechers Viper Courts are equipped to handle frequent starts and stops and a wider toe box allows freedom of movement.”
Avoid These Pickleball Mistakes
“Shot selection isn’t very disciplined at the entry level,” says McGuffin, who cautions that players shouldn’t rely too heavily on a lob. When done well, tossing the ball offensively can surprise the opponent and give them little time to react, but repeat it too much and you’ll become predictable. Instead, be sure to include other shots such as dropshots.
“I think one of the most common mistakes I see when players start out is that they avoid having to learn the ‘soft game’ and just want to hit everything hard,” says Parenteau, who like us l learned, had worked diligently on this aspect herself. “I get it! It’s more fun! However, you won’t continue to get away with not being able to be consistent with your dinks or a third shot. So the sooner you start working on it, the better! The lobbying can be an excellent strategy…if done at the right time!
Train to win
As with improving your game in any sport, training requires as much thought off the pitch as it does on the pitch. “One of my favorite drills is to improve your reaction time behind the kitchen line (the non-volley zone before the net). This drill involves two players volleying back and forth from a foot inside the kitchen line,” says Parenteau. “Although it’s technically not allowed in pickleball, the drill is great for hand speed. Since you’re one foot closer together on each side, you have less time than usual to react. Then, once you exit the kitchen and fly from the normal location, you should feel like you have more time, which improves reaction time.
“General strength training, combined with functional and resistance training, also lends itself to pickle,” says McGuffin. “Specifically hand speed drills to work on your reaction and foot speed to make your first step more explosive. I would also suggest incorporating lateral exercises with a band as well.
Overall, pickleball is growing at an incredible rate, and there’s never been a better time to pick up the paddle. “From a professional standpoint, it’s much more established,” McGuffin says. “Pros can finally make a living playing this sport. Along with the pros signing brand deals (like with Skechers), the prize money goes up and it’s also super accessible – and cheap enough – to play at your local park.
“I still love him,” shares Parenteau. “I feel so lucky to be able to teach and compete professionally in the sport I love! It’s a great way to get active because although it’s hard to master, it’s easy to learn and understand. Most groups of four can play all the points in under an hour, and you could never do that in tennis for example.