Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Comparing Apples and Oranges

Coach Wayne’s Corner

The sports of tennis and pickleball are somewhat unique in comparison to most other sports and while there are distinct differences in each of the two games, they share a lot in common.

Let’s consider a few of the similarities and differences between the games of tennis and pickleball.

Both sports take place on the same dimensionally shaped court, but the courts are different in size.

Both courts have baselines, sidelines and service lines, but the location of the service boxes are reversed.

Tennis has an overhead service motion and pickleball has an underhanded service motion.

Tennis has two serves and pickleball only has one.

Both sports have their own unusual/unique, but different scoring formats.

So we are in agreement, that even though there are some differences, such as the size of the court, the scoring format and the execution of the strokes, the two sports actually have a lot in common.

Both can be played as singles or doubles.

There is a net dividing the two sides of the court.

We are required to make contact with a ball using a racquet or a paddle and even though the rules vary, we are allowed to strike the ball either on the bounce or in the air.

And with all of the strategies that we can learn to apply in both of these games, (as I tell my kids in my juniors programs), keep it simple, just be the last one to hit the ball over the net and inside the lines and you will win!

So why has pickleball become such a popular and trendy sport over tennis?

As a self-proclaimed lifelong player of both sports, (for what it’s worth), here are some of my beliefs as to why pickleball is such a popular game.

First and foremost, a large part of the popularity of the sport of pickleball has to do with the social aspect of the way the game is played.

Unless you are playing in some sort of organized event, tennis basically consists of four players on a single court, competing together for a couple of hours.

However, in pickleball you are rotating courts,  as well as partners and opponents, on a continual basis and even if you are waiting for a court to open up you are socializing with your fellow players on the sidelines. This whole process creates somewhat of a meet and greet atmosphere for the players.

Secondly, the learning curve of conquering the fundamentals required to compete in the sport of pickleball (for rookie athlete players) is much easier to achieve than in the sport of tennis.

In addition to that, many lifelong, high-level tennis players have expressed to me that they are taking up pickleball because of the mobility they have on the smaller court. This mobility now permits/allows someone who has been a 4.0 to a 4.5 level tennis player to be able to compete on the same aggressive level of play which they/we/I could in our younger years.

This is a fact that I personally and wholly agree with!

As we age, the size of the tennis court, along with the speed of the ball, and the length and weight of swinging the racquet, simply becomes too much in regards to space and time.

The slower bouncing ball and the lighter weight paddle, along with the smaller court space in pickleball, creates an environment which simply does not require the radical/extreme physical punishment on our bodies we experience when playing high-level competitive tennis. This results in less impact on the joints and muscles, which leads to less physical recovery time between playing, and allows players to go out and compete on a daily basis in pickleball.

It is my personal opinion that unfortunately, it’s probably already “too little too late,” but the USTA needs to officially endorse some type of senior tennis ball, just as they have done with 10-and-under youth tennis to slow the game down for senior players and somehow try to retain aging tennis players from wholly converting to the sport of pickleball.

At any rate, the sport of pickleball continues to grow in popularity for all types of athletes in all generations. It’s a great way to get your competitive mojo going, get in a good workout and make some new friends!

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball  instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at coachwayneclark@aol.com, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161

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