Main Content

Pickleball for seniors

A game that plays out like a ping-pong, badminton, and tennis is winning seniors over.

It’s called pickleball, the National Senior Games’ newest medal sport.

This easy-to-play sport cobbles together a badminton net, wiffle ball, and wooden paddles.

It’s named after Pickles, the frisky pet of Washington congressman Joel Pritchard, who invented the game. Pickles loves chasing after balls – hence, the name of the game.

Active fun

Pickleball is a dynamic sport that promotes friendly competition among players. Seniors like it because it’s played on a smaller court and is kind to the knees. It doesn’t require much legwork.

The player slides back and forth around the court instead of running as fast as they can to strike the ball with a tennis racquet.

For those who once played tennis, it’s been an easy transition to pickleball. The movements are the same, minus the stress and heavy impact on knees and joints.

Mental benefits

Pickleball is good, not only for the body but for the mind. Creating strategies to win the game keeps the mind alert. One strategy requires keeping the ball low so volleys are hard to follow through.

As a paddle sport, pickleball is very easy to learn and to follow. Rules are simple and basic equipment is always available.

Court and gear

The game is played in a badminton-sized court with pickleball paddles made of wood or other materials like aluminum and graphite.

The ball – usually white or yellow – has holes much like that of a wiffle ball. The pickle ball is slightly smaller than a wiffle ball. Its speed is one-third that of a tennis ball.

The net should be low to make the game more accessible to players of all ages. A tennis or badminton court will do as long as it’s 20’ x 44’. Net height should be 36 inches at the side, 34 inches at the center.

The court – with its right and left service areas – is similar to the one for tennis. It’s set in a seven-foot non-volley zone fronting the net, or the “kitchen.”

The right clothes and accessories

Wear athletic shorts, sweatpants, and t-shirts. Tennis shoes are a must. Hats, sun visors, sweatbands, and safety glasses protect you from the elements when you’re outdoors.

Basic strategy

Pickleball is played to 11 points. You earn points by hitting the ball at tough angles and putting them at your opponent’s feet.

You need a two-point margin to win.

A game takes 10 to 25 minutes and players can only score while serving. No volleying is allowed in the “kitchen.”

Partners should always move together to ensure spirited play. Once the game is over, pickle ballers tap their paddles together as a gesture of sportsmanship. It basically means “good game.”

Pickleball is a great way for seniors to stay fit and active. The sport helps expand their social network and have fun with people their age.

Visit for more on the sport.