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Yes, Black People Do Play Pickleball and We Are Loving It

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a first-time player, this paddle sport offers fun, fitness, and friendly competition. And it’s a game you can play at any age.

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Black woman outside playing pickleball
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Pickleball, a delightful blend of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis, has taken the sports and recreation world by storm. And it’s getting a lot of celebrity attention. Aisha Tyler, Kelly Rowland, Serena Williams and Jamie Foxx have all picked up the game. Drake, LeBron James, Lil Wayne, and Michael B. Jordan have invested in Major League Pickleball teams. Black folks may have come late to the party, but once we arrived things got a lotmore live.

Could the silly name be a detractor for the uninitiated? It’s not exactly descriptive of play. No brined cucumbers involved. The moniker has some obscure connection to a term in rowing, which is a nod to the thrown-together origins of the game and a hint at the posh pedigree of the inventors. Pickleball was made up in an upscale Seattle-area neighborhood by some bored family and friends in the 60s. In case you didn’t pick up this bit of trivia in the Ivy League, a “pickle boat” is to crew racing what a pickup team is to street ball. Improvised. Later on, as their associates sought to organize, popularize and monetize the sport—and in the process, make it seem less elitist—word somehow spread that the game’s originators had a dog named Pickles and it was named in the hound’s honor. But no. They named the dog after the game. So, you might glimpse why this activity wasn’t on some Black folks’ radar during the decades it steadily gained traction.

Related: Take AARP's Pickleball Quiz to Earn 450 Rewards Points

So why did Pickleball blow up suddenly? Blame the pandemic. Similar to Tik Tok dance challenges, Pickleball offered lonely, bored and sedentary people a way to get moving and connect in a socially distanced way. Plus, it’s joyful. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a complete novice, this paddle sport offers fun, fitness, and friendly competition. And it’s a game you can play at any age.

Do Black people get social with pickleball?

Yes! It’s definitely more popular in white communities, but that shouldn’t stop you from grabbing a paddle and giving it a try. Check out the following organizations looking to bring more Black people into the game:

  • All-Love Racquet Club (in Long Beach, CA)
  • Black Pickleball Collective (in Charlotte, NC)
  • Pickleballin’ Lifestyle Club (in Atlanta, GA and Miami, FL)

And if you have physical, cognitive, or developmental challenges, check out Adaptive Pickleball (in Greater Upstate South Carolina).

Where can I play pickleball?

Finding a local pickleball court shouldn’t be too hard. There are a lot of pickleball groups on social media. Additionally, many community centers, schools, tennis clubs, and recreational facilities offer pickleball. You can also visit the USA Pickleball Association’s website (, type in your address or zip code, and get a listing of locations to play within a 35-mile radius. So grab your paddle, head to a court, and enjoy the game!

Tips for beginners

  • Wear comfortable clothes Athletic attire and supportive shoes are a good idea. If you get more serious, you may want to invest in pickleball shoes. Volleyball sneakers (for indoor play) and tennis sneakers (for outdoor play) will also serve you well.
  • Warm up Help avoid injuries by warming up and stretching your body before you begin playing. If you do get hurt, rest, ice and elevate the injured body part. If pain or numbness persists, or if you can’t put any weight on it, see a medical professional.
  • Call the ball When playing doubles, yell something like “mine” or “got it” before hitting the ball to avoid confusion.
  • Stay light on your feet Stay on the balls of your feet so that you are ready to move quickly in any direction.
  • Mix up your shots Change up your shots to keep your opponents guessing.
  • Have fun: Pickleball is all about enjoyment and camaraderie. Enjoy it!

Learn the basics of play

Let’s dive into the basics of the game so you’re ready to give this popular sport a try for yourself!

Pickleball is played on a court that resembles a smaller tennis court or a badminton-size court. Here are the key points:

  • Equipment You’ll need a paddle (similar to a larger ping-pong paddle) and a plastic wiffle ball.
  • Court The court is 20 feet wide and 44 feet long with perimeter and internal lines and a net at the center. It’s common to see people playing on a modified tennis court.
  • Singles or doubles Pickleball can be played as singles (one player per side) or doubles (two players per side).

The serve
The game begins when one team serves the pickleball from behind the baseline on the serving side.  Here are the service rules:

  • Announce the score before serving.
  • Serve underhand (contact the ball in an upward motion below the waist).
  • The ball must cross the net in the air and bounce once in the diagonal square on the opponent’s side.
  • Only one service attempt is allowed.
  • The opposing team can return the serve after one bounce on their side.

Rallying & scoring
Once the ball is in play, here’s how the rally unfolds:

  • The return shot must also bounce once in the serving team’s court before they hit it.
  • After the ball has bounced once on each team’s side of the net, players can hit the ball back and forth across the net off the bounce or out of the air.

Scoring is straightforward:

  • Points can only be scored by the serving team.
  • The first server exception rule gives only one chance to serve for the team starting the game.
  • A fault can occur when the ball is hit out of bounds or doesn’t clear the net.
  • Games are typically played to 11 points, but you must win by 2 points.

The non-volley zone (a.k.a. the kitchen)
The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a unique feature. Players cannot hit the ball out of the air while standing close to the net (i.e., within 7 feet).

Some say that pickleball is addictive. Once you start, you just may find yourself hooked on this fast-growing sport. So, grab your paddle and a few friends, step onto a court, and give it a try!

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