Anticipation and Unknown Outcomes: A Pickleball Story

Unless you’ve been buried in a steel barrel at the bottom of Lake Mead, you have heard of pickleball. It’s become the sport of choice for a certain set. Mark Albert, Senior Recreation Leader with the Parks and Recreation Department of Orangetown, says that, in addition to pickleball, which is by far the largest and the fastest growing sport the town offers for adults, there are an abundant array of outdoor sports for children and adults all available at an extremely low cost.

I wanted to try pickleball but never received a mailing. We used to get a brochure with the season’s programs, but we haven’t gotten one and we won’t because, according to Albert, several years ago some town departments were instructed to digitize public documents to, as they said, “make them more accessible to the public.” I question the effectiveness of this change as people with limited access to the internet are left out completely, but these are the facts. The brochure is on the homepage at and the town posts on its social media. There is an online registration system in place too though I know you can drop by the office at Veterans Memorial Park and pay for a course that way as well.

Some tennis folks say there are few more insidious infestations than pickleball. Think lanternfly. To them it’s an invasive sport which covers the tennis courts of Orangetown like porcelain vine. Albert says the plan is to convert ALL the tennis courts at Veterans Memorial Park to pickleball courts by early fall. I signed up and started this summer. Nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other, I was told by an optometrist long ago that I would be no good at “ball sports” so, uh, you know, GAME ON! I may be no good, but I am a fierce competitor, which makes me a team liability.

With Bob Hudson as our instructor, I attended two sessions of beginner pickleball. The twak of that ball is addictive. Pickleball has weird terms and I still don’t get the scoring. Picklers are a bit raucous, older often and some of us are just a little overweight. The game is played with a largish ping pong-like paddle, a wiffle ball-type ball, shorter net and a smaller live area of play. There are two teams with two players on each team usually, though I know it can be played as singles. A team, or an individual player if playing singles, needs to score 11 points to win and each match is fairly quick.

During my two sessions (each session is six lessons one time per week and the cost is about $40), I learned how to serve and the best way to move on the court. I also discovered that when the instructor is elsewhere, everybody else will tell you what to do - “Move up! Move back! Get behind the line! Stay out of the kitchen!” Yes, there is an area called “the kitchen.” Hey, the game is called pickleball. Obviously, the name of these things was decided by a jolly group of day-drinking drunks. In any event, you can’t be in the kitchen at the start but then you gotta run up and be ready for what comes your way. Which, in my case, is coming my way then speedily past me, eventually rolling into the fence.

Be aware that your novice teammates are ecstatically positive and exuberantly enthusiastic about every shot you miss as in “GOOD TRY!” It’s a little like being a five-year-old playing T-ball in that way. It’s fun, sign up with the town for lessons or drop by the court to get involved.