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Picking Up Para-Pickleball

Reprinted from PN October 2017

Borrowing the rules from a few traditional net sports, a new game with a funny name is growing in popularity among the adaptive community.

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Take some rules from tennis, badminton and table tennis, throw in a large plastic Wiffle-style ball, oversized, lightweight paddles and courts that are about a third the size of tennis courts, and you end up with a sport that’s gaining popularity in the adaptive sports community. It’s a sport called para-pickleball. Washington resident Adrienne Barlow sees the potential in pickleball as an adaptive sport and is working hard to create a national program for both competitive and recreational para-pickleball players. Barlow aims to make pickleball fun, competitive and, most of all, inclusive for players with and without disabilities under the organization she founded, Rock N Roll Pickleball.

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2016 Participant Report, there are more than 2.5 million pickleball participants in the United States and there’s at least one pickleball court in all 50 states. However, that hasn’t made it any easier for para-pickleball competitors to find a place to play. That’s why Barlow has made it her mission to educate and increase awareness of the sport of para-pickleball and to support inclusion and access to all sports through her organization.

“Our whole goal is creating membership and affiliated clubs right now,” Barlow says. “Right now, it’s spreading like wildfire. I’m having a hard time keeping up with it.”


Creating A New Sport

Pickleball was born on Washington’s Bainbridge Island in the mid-1960s. Joel Pritchard, a Washington congressman, his neighbor Barney McCallum and businessman Bill Bell are credited with creating the game so their families would have something to do together. They had access to a badminton court but didn’t have a full set of rackets, so they improvised with table tennis paddles and a perforated ball. Over time, they developed rules and the game began to catch on with everyone from children to seniors. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) website (usapa.org), there’s a debate about how the sport’s name originated. One theory is that it was named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would chase after the ball and hide it. The other hypothesis is that the name was derived from boating terminology.

In English yachting, the “pickle boat” is the last boat to come into the dock in a race. Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, who was a competitive  rower, claims she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

For more information, including the official rules, visit rocknrollpickleball.com or usapa.org.

 

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Picking Up Para-Pickleball

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