Granted, the question doesn't come up nearly as often as it used to, but still we hear it, "what in the world is pickleball?"
When you get that question, what do you say?: Many people tell the inquiring mind that it's a small game of tennis. Others will say it's a cross between tennis and badminton. Even some will say it's a mix of tennis and table tennis.
All those answers are correct, but there is a problem with giving those answers. When you tell most people that your wonderful sport is part tennis and you lead with that, you scare many, many people away instantly. If they are already playing tennis, then they are probably happy playing tennis.
And if they are not tennis players, then the word tennis has a special meaning to them. Tennis to non-tennis players or ex-tennis players means, hard to learn, harder to play and the ball bounces all over the place with a lot of time spent chasing it. So when you lead with anything that indicates it's like tennis, then you scare away a big part of the possible playing population of pickleball.
So what should we tell them?
Well, here's what we tell 'em.
Pickleball? IT'S A REALLY BIG GAME OF PING PONG, PLAYED ON A BADMINTON SIZED COURT WITH A TENNIS NET IN THE MIDDLE.
And honestly that is the truest explanation you can probably give any person who asks.
When it comes right down to it, pickleball played at the highest levels is not much like tennis at all. In fact I had to break a lot of my tennis habits before I became a good pickleball player. Unlike tennis where we turn the shoulders instantly and take a big backswing and spend a lot of time chasing the ball, pickleball when played at the high levels and taught by great coaches everywhere, is played much like a game of table tennis, where keeping the ball out in front of you with short compact controlled shots will win you more points than not. These short compact strokes can be used to hit soft finesse shots to baffle and befuddle your opponents, or quickly accelerated to drive balls hard at your opponents when the time is right.
But the bottom line is that pickleball is an easy sport to learn and play. And that person who is asking the question is not really asking "what is pickleball". They are asking the question to give you permission to tell them how easy it is and assure them that they can do it. Essentially, almost anyone can play a game of table tennis on this miniature court. And once they hear that, they are very likely to follow their curiosity into grabbing a paddle and trying it.
Touchdown!!!!! You have another player hooked.
So move away from the tennis analogy into an explanation that assures people they can do it, and you will see your new player numbers go up dramatically.
Start today. You'll be glad you did.
Keep up the great work everyone,