(Pickleball players avoid the rain by playing at Bangers and Dinks indoor facility in Chesterfield County, Va. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn McMahon/Capital News Service)
By Kaitlyn McMahon / Capital News Service
Terms like volley llamas, flabjacks and dillballs sound like a bad joke, but are actually terms used in pickleball, a sport that’s a smash hit in Virginia.
In fact, there are three upcoming pickleball tournaments in October alone and new facilities opening.
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport across the nation as of 2022, according to the national governing authority, USA Pickleball. The sport has taken hold in the South Atlantic region, which includes Virginia.
Virginia ranks No. 10 in the nation for pickleball courts, as determined by the Pickleheads website. The site, a 101-level sport resource and a hub for finding players, courts and groups, reports 428 pickleball courts in Virginia.
The sport is a hybrid of badminton, tennis and Ping-Pong that can be played on an indoor or outdoor court.
Bangers and Dinks recreational pickleball facility opened in Chesterfield County in July. Nicole Thompson and husband Jack are co-owners. The spot, named after two of the sport’s terms, is central Virginia’s first indoor pickleball facility, according to Nicole Thompson.
The facility offers floors with Pro-Cushion surfacing, specialized lighting, changing rooms and drink and snack options.
“I think pickleball is popular because it’s easy to learn but hard to master,” Thompson said.
Competitive camaraderie is a part of the game, according to Thompson: The pickleball culture encourages laughter and fun when playing.
Performance Pickleball RVA will open in Henrico County on Dec. 1. The facility plans to be the largest indoor pickleball space in the region, according to chief operating officer Jon Laaser. There are 18 total courts: 12 indoor courts and six outdoor courts.
Laaser wound up falling in love with pickleball, despite his initial indifference. He and his wife joined the Western Henrico Pickleball group shortly after. His background in tennis and Ping-Pong helped him learn the game quickly.
“I think there’s kind of a misconception because of the name, that it’s, you know, a goofy sport,” Laaser said.
Pickleball is a sport for all ages, cultures and backgrounds, Laaser said. The sport offers people the chance to connect with strangers.
“The game has really skewed younger, and the older players that loved it in the beginning are still playing, but you really see it run the gamut age wise,” Laaser said.
Laaser’s soon-to-open facility was inspired from feedback after he hosted a few pickleball tournaments with his wife. This year they hosted two pickleball tournaments: Ladybug Classic and Body Armor 804. Ladybug Classic had 300 participants and Body Armor 804 offered approximately $10,000 in prize money.
Performance Pickleball RVA will host a grand opening celebration, The Pickle Ball, on Dec. 20. Riley and Lindsey Newman, ranked No. 2 and No. 9 respectively in mixed doubles in the Professional Pickleball Association tour, will attend.
Jonathan Medina Alvarez, a Richmond-area pickleball player, will be the club’s resident professional, according to Laaser. Alvarez is the No. 3 ranked singles player in the Association of Pickleball Players. The association is officially sanctioned by USA Pickleball, which formed in 2005. Alvarez will lead instruction, clinics and crossfit training.
Other pickleball courts throughout Virginia, private and public, can be tracked on the Pickleheads website.
It feels like pickleball just arrived, but this year marks the 58th anniversary of the sport, according to USA Pickleball. Three men created the game in 1965, on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. The oft-repeated origin story is that they wanted to play badminton but had to use Ping-Pong paddles instead.
The number of pickleball players increased 159% in the last three years, according to USA Pickleball. There are approximately 70,000 official members and an estimated 4.8 million players in the U.S. The largest total demographic for pickleball players is ages 18-34.
There are over 44,000 courts. The governing association estimated that 130 new locations open per month.
Upcoming pickleball tournaments in Virginia include the Legends Championships in Wintergreen on Oct. 6, Upshot Pickleballs’ Hustle and BUSTle Open in Fredericksburg on Oct. 13, and Pickleboo in Henrico County on Oct. 27.
Tournaments all over the world can be found on the Pickleball Brackets website.
Overview of how to play doubles pickleball, per the official USA Pickleball Rulebook:
To begin the game the score must be called aloud. The server calls the serving team’s score first, then the receiving team’s score, lastly the server’s number. The first call will always be “zero-zero-two,” as the original server is referred to as the second server.
A serve is underhanded, and cannot be above the waist. A serve is made diagonally crosscourt. At the start of the game the server is awarded only one serve.For the remainder of the game, if the serving side faults then their partner has one more opportunity to serve.
Volleys are initiated outside of the non-volley zone. A player can be in the non-volley zone as long as their opponent is not volleying the ball. A player can stay inside the non-volley zone before or after returning a bounced ball.
The receiving team must let the ball bounce once after a serve. After the initial serve, the receiving side can hit the ball out of the air or choose to allow it to bounce.
The ball cannot bounce twice. If it does it is considered a “fault,” any faults in the game means the opponents gain possession of the serve. Until another fault occurs and then the possession of the serve is switched again.
If the serving side holds serve (serving players continue gaining points), after each point the server will alternate serving from the left to right side.
When the servers advantage is even numbers they will serve on the right side, when the servers advantage is odd numbers they will serve on the left side. The receiving team returns the ball in the diagonal court of the server.
Similar to tennis, the ball must stay inside of the lines. The opponent can call “out,” if they believe the ball from their opponent is out of bounds.
The most commonly used scoring option is best 2 of 3 games to 11 points. Players must win by 2 points.
After each game, players switch sides.
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