Letter to the Editor | Pickleball depends on open play

The phenomenal growth of pickleball (“PB”) in town is a direct result of an open play system. Legislative bodies in 2018 wisely accepted PB open play. PB needs open play as it is both a recreational and social activity. This happy combination is a direct result of an open play system and is fundamental to PB’s Piedmont success.  

Four pickleball courts are accommodated in the space of one tennis court. PB players are much closer than in tennis. The inherent nature of PB is that much of the game is played with opposing players separated by 14 feet.  This creates an atmosphere of sharing, complimenting, ribbing and occasional bad jokes. Tennis is mostly played with competitors at opposite baselines which are 78 feet apart. The same camaraderie during tennis games is not possible. The shared nature of pickleball is created by the close physical proximity.   

In tennis you arrange to meet partners of generally the same level and courts are reserved to ensure a competitive game. To just walk on to play with an unknown group might embarrass you if you don’t keep up and you may waste the better player’s time. This does not encourage open play and makes rankings important to encourage balanced play in tennis. With PB open play various age groups and skill levels play together. Anyone can play if the courts are open. Pickleball is a social sport allowing people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, gender, and abilities to blend.

Unlike tennis reservations, PB open play means players will play with many different players in a single hour. Pickleball games generally last 10 to 15 minutes and players pair up with players of various skill levels or have the option of seeking partners of their own level. Informal teaching amongst players is continual and endemic.  

Tennis games are longer as generally recreation matches go an hour or more. Pickleball games are about 15 mins.  This means tennis court reservations require a minimum one-hour allocation with two or sometimes four players using the space. Four pickleball games will be going in that same hour, with sixteen folks playing. On weekdays at Linda and Hampton commonly 12 to 20 folks are waiting to rotate in. In one hour about 26-30 PB players will be enjoying themselves. Tennis in the same time and space would have accommodated 4 – 8 players at most. A PB reservation system would drastically limit the use of the space to literally half or less. Weekends at PMS we typically have 55-60 players.

Tennis requires more lessons to be a decent player. Pickleball requires just playing and often informal coaching from fellow players. Assigning set hours of open play rather than reservations means pickleball players know when others will be there to mix in with. You go and have fun. Tennis reservations are integral to the existing tennis culture as they define who you will be playing with.

PB open play in Piedmont has built a community of friendships. Many picklers coming from surrounding cities are struck by how positive and friendly the Piedmont PB experience is. For Piedmont picklers the recreational activity goes hand in hand with the social aspect. Pickleball open play is critical in creating a vibrant social community in Piedmont that previously did not exist.

One thought on “Letter to the Editor | Pickleball depends on open play

  1. What you point out regarding the dynamics around how pickleball matches are played makes perfect sense. But what you do not address, and candidly cannot justify, is why pickleball players should continue to have entirely free access to Piedmont courts while tennis players do not (going on five years now). Further, why are tennis decals limited to Piemont residents while pickleball has no such system and as such is open to anybody? How is that equitable?

    And regarding your response to my piece last week, I was citing basketball, volleyball and badminton as examples of uses for this court in lieu of tennis (and pickleball), not in conjunction with. Behind that is the underlying point that ahead of a major construction endeavor in August, why should this space be preordained to tennis and/or pickleball? Why not open this to a broad discussion among the community, particularly those of us that live in close proximity to the Beach Courts, as to what they want that space used for? How exactly is that concept unreasonable?

    My final question to you is what exactly is the link you suggested last week between basketball and crime? Not following the connection you’re making between the two.

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