The Sport of Pickleball Now Rising in Popularity Among Adults and Students Alike


Natalie Hannah

Despite the name, pickleball has no actual connection to pickles. The actual meaning behind the name is debated and there is no official consensus on where the name came from.

Addie Grimm, Editor-in-Chief

Pickleball has been having its full-circle moment due to its growing popularity among younger generations, and North currently has pickleball units in individual sports and sophomore PE classes. It was a game designed by kids in 1965 and then picked up by the older generation, but it is now making its way back to the younger generations. 

Pickleball is often thought of as a combination of many different racquet sports. It is played on a smaller, badminton-size court, and it has a one-bounce rule similar to tennis. However, pickleball also has many aspects that make it completely unique. 

North PE class engaging in a game of pickleball (Sumiya Neha)

The game can be played in singles or doubles and can be played indoors or outdoors, making it very accessible. The sport does have some nuanced rules regarding serving, scoring and certain locations on the court, such as the front of the court, called the “kitchen.”

Despite these rules, “it’s a fairly easy sport to kind of pick up,” said athletic director assistant Cathy Kruse, who started playing pickleball during COVID-19 and has continued ever since. “And compared to tennis with a long racket, a bouncy ball, a bigger court… pickleball is a smaller paddle with a hard wiffle ball and smaller courts.”

Although pickleball is often considered a sport for the older generation, it is by no means an oversimplified or overly-easy sport. 

“If you watch a pro game, it’s so much more about playing near the kitchen and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake that it is actually like tennis. You’re trying to hit a forehand shot down the line and get it past your opponent…the cool part of the game is that strategic aspect,” said Chip McPheeters, individual sports teacher. 

Students in North PE class competing in the game of Pickleball (Sumiya Neha)

In addition, while pickleball has been popular among older generations for decades, it was actually invented by a bored group of kids. 

“It was basically a game that some kids… made up over the course of a summer in Bainbridge, Washington. There’s an island out there, and it was a rainy day, and the kids were complaining about nothing to do. So the parents told them… ‘go out [to the badminton court] and make a game.’ And so they did,” said McPheeters. Later, the parents and adults on the island began to play the game too, “and pretty soon the adults squeezed the kids off the floor because they loved playing it so much.”

However, ever since the children were squeezed off the court, pickleball has started to come full-circle as the younger generation becomes more active in the sport. The average age of pickleball players dropped in recent years, and from 2020 to 2021, the growth of total participants was the greatest among players under the age of 24. 

“I go out to the courts off of Peck, like [James] O. Breen Park, and there’s actual pickleball courts out there. And there’s a lot of different age ranges… I’ve seen even some kids from North out there playing,” said Kruse. 

For those interested in playing pickleball, there are many courts in and around St. Charles, both indoor and outdoor. 

“This is the perfect activity to go out and have fun. There’s always people out [at the courts], so you can kind of rotate in,” said Kruse. At most courts, there is a system to put your paddle on a rack to signify your spot in line.

North girls having fun, showing off their pickleball racquets during PE class (Sumiya Neha)

North’s PE classes have been a part of this pickleball resurgence as the game becomes more popular, and it is taught as a relaxed, yet strategically advanced, game that many students can get involved in with little prior knowledge. 

“Probably six or seven years ago, we started teaching it,” said McPheeters. “I think it’s a great game. And the deeper you get into it in terms of playing it, the more intricate the rules and the things that you can do.”