Pickleball is a great sport for active adults and there's no place where it's more popular than in The Villages FL. The Villages FL is just North of Orlando in Florida and it's the largest active adult community in the nation. Pickleball is definitely the "in sport" in The Villages. Wherever you turn in The Villages you see people playing pickleball or hear them talking about wanting to learn more about the game. In fact most people that move to The Villages wind up trying the game at one time or another.
Wikipedia describes the game as; "Pickleball is a racquet sport which combines elements of badminton,tennis, and table tennis. The sport is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to a tennis net, but is mounted two inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle and a polymer wiffle ball."
The most popular story is that the game was named after the sports founder's dog "Pickles." This is somewhat incorrect as the founder's dog actually came along after the sport was invented and was actually named after the sport. The sport was named by the wife of the founder who said that the first hand shaped paddles resembled a "pickle boat."
There are 114 local courts available for pickleball enthusists in The Villages. Pickleball is a sport that is very accommodating to the new player. Since most people that move to The Villages have never heard of the sport when they move here, those that now play remember being in the same situation and really bend over backward to help teach the game.
The Villages Recreation Dept and the Pickleball Community Volunteer Group (PCVG) will coordinate the pickleball activities in The Villages. The PCVG is the go to organization that provides manpower and resources to help support the sport here in The Villages. Monthly tournaments generally are fundraisers for various local causes. There are lots of clinics for beginers, intermediate players as well as advanced pickleballers.
As an example a recent tournament that was held prior to Christmas required tournamentparticipants to not pay a fee to enter, but required toys for the Toys for Tots drive which supplys toys to needy children at Christmas time. Thanks to tournament entrants 74 shiny new toys were added to the Toys for Tots collection.
There are lessons that are designed to get players up to the intermediate level and even a regimented program of instruction that includes pickleball 101, 102 and 103. One of the most popular aspects of pickleball is the social groups. Participants describe these as competitive camaraderie. Competitions are usually topped off with dinner, either at a restaurant, covered dish style or cookout.
There are also rating clinics that are held by the PCVG that help gauge a players skill. The ratings system, helps Villagers enter into leagues and tournaments that will suit their playing ability. The system rates players by ability level so they can match up against players of the same level.
Each player's ratings are calculated by teams of judges. A player is judged on their aptitude with the variety of shots the game demands: Serves, serve return,volleys, smashes, dinks, forehands, backhands and several other types of shots. After evaluating each player's skill level, judges decide on a score. Beginners receive a 2.0 or 2.5 rating, intermediate players receive a 3.0 or 3.5 rating, and advanced players receive a 4.0 or 4.5 rating. The PCVG then works with the recreation department to schedule tournaments that have tiers based on the 2.0-4.5 scale.
There are now several different offshoots of standard play. Team pickleball leagues, the singles pickleball challenge ladder and indoor pickleball are among the newer additions to the pickleball schedule. The easiest way to get involved in the sport is simply to walk onto the pickleball courts at any of the participating recreation centers and tell anyone around that you would like to play. Chances are, you will be playing quickly and will receive all the information you need on becoming a regular on the courts.
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