Pickleball has got nothing to do with gherkins, being preserved or anything similar. But it is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet and can be played by anyone, young or old. There is now a strong following in Hua Hin after being established here four years ago.
So why does this sport have such an odd name? Pickleball was invented in 1965 by US Congressman Joel Pritchard at his home near Seattle. The most common theory is that it was named after his dog ‘Pickles’ as the first games were played using this dog’s play-ball. Pickleball’s unique name raises curiosity and hints at the fun and enjoyment that is experienced by all who play the game. This is a hybrid sport combining many of the elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong; played on a court similar to a badminton court with a waist-high net.
Some very enthusiastic pickleball players on court at the 100PLUS Hall, True Arena Hua Hin Alison Fulton introduced pickleball to Hua Hin and True Arena is now the home of the Hua Hin International Pickleball Club. Play is available on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday mornings. There are more than 100 regular players from around 16 different countries. Wednesday (3 – 5 PM) is set aside for novice players to be introduced to the sport with the current British Open ladies doubles title holders, Alison with Elaine Shawcross are on hand as coaches and mentors. Pickleball is easy for beginners to learn, and attracts players of any age or gender. The game can be played at many different levels. It can be introduced as a fun game, where the pace is gentle but it can also be a fast-paced, competitive sport. The focus of the Wednesday training session we attended was clearly about strategy.
Like other ‘bat and ball’ games stroke play, agility and reflexes may be important, but wily older players of pickleball are often able to match it with younger opponents with a more crafty approach. Tournament play keeps interest high for the better players with Alison partnering Bill Evans to win the January 2018 Hua Hin championships. A big ambition for the Hua Hin club is to host the first Thailand International Open event in 2019, bringing players from around the world. Anyone that has played other racquet sports such as tennis, badminton or table tennis will adapt quickly to this game. The social nature of pickleball is part of the allure that is causing so many people to play and become so enthusiastic about it.