The first Delmarva Dills Beach Blast Pickleball Tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8 at the Indian River High School tennis courts starting at 9 a.m. each day. It will feature women’s doubles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and singles games, with players' ages ranging from 24 to 82. Currently, 87 athletes from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware are registered to play. Several local businesses have caught pickleball fever and are helping sponsor the event.
For the past five years, the sport has been quietly growing in popularity in the area. The game of pickleball was invented in the mid-1960s in Puget Sound, Wash., near Seattle, by a family man who sensed his children were growing bored with other games. The game has grown in popularity in recent times, with an estimated 250,000 + players currently active in the sport.
It is a combination of tennis and ping pong, using either graphite or composite paddles, a ball slightly smaller than a Wiffle ball and a court surface space the size of a badminton court. The game moves slowly at times, and incredibly fast at other times, depending on the skill level of the players and the pace of the game.
While the sport caters to a large percentage of seniors, a younger generation of players is also picking up paddles. It requires skill and quick bursts of athletic ability.
It is a game of strategy, and keeping the ball in play is key to this game. Usually whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins.
Pickleball resembles tennis in a way, with a large amount of back-and-forth volleys, with the first person to make a mistake usually leading to the point. There’s a rectangular no-volley zone, or kitchen line, just over the net, where hitting the ball is prohibited until the ball bounces at least once. The smaller court allows players to ultimately have more range, which means a better game experience. There are many tennis players who have gotten older and started playing pickleball. They say it doesn’t take the toll on their bodies the way tennis does. For those who used to play tennis and their knees are a bit worn, this game is perfect.
It is the fastest-growing sport in the nation. According to the USAPA, pickleball is quickly building traction across the country. And soon enough, it may even overshadow the sport it tried to emulate.
Last year, a number of Delaware pickleball players went to the National Senior Games in Cleveland, Ohio, and brought back gold, silver and bronze medals. The state of Delaware has a few national champions who want to promote the sport and increase participation just for the health of it.