For a sport whose association only made its official Australian debut three years ago, pickleball has made a huge impact.


In the short time since industry body Pickleball Australia Association (PAA) was formed, the sport has grown in popularity and now boasts more than 7,500 financial members and an estimated 25,000 participants across seven state and territory associations.


Having proved a massive drawcard to many in their active retirement years, more than 100 affiliate clubs, community groups and businesses now have pickleball members. In October, it was inducted as an official sport in the 19th Australian Masters Games. 


Played by more than 36.5 million people across 69 countries internationally, pickleball is now just six countries shy of the minimum required to have it designated as an Olympic sport, and even has its own language.


Rules of engagement

A low-impact sport played with a paddle and a small, perforated plastic ball, pickleball is often described as a combination of tennis, table tennis and badminton.


Played indoors or outdoors on a hard surface the size of a badminton court, and over a 90cm high net, pickleball is a combination of tactical shots, patience, and easy-to-learn strokes.


The game is played in either traditional singles, doubles or mixed doubles format. Only the serving team can score points and games are normally played to 11 points, win by 2.


A sport for all ages and abilities

While no official numbers are kept on how many players are aged 65 or over, or living with disability, there are several reasons why pickleball’s appeal is so broad.


These include the low technical level of skills required, together with the easy transference of skills from other racquetball sports. Other advantages are that the paddle is held close to the hand, so the hand/eye coordination required to get started is minimised. Similarly, because that the ball slows on the bounce it gives a player additional time to hit it. What’s more, the game pace can be easily controlled by players to suit their skill level.


Adaptive and para pickleball are more common in the US where game rules are amended slightly to accommodate anyone living with mobility or cognitive issues. For example, allowing players using wheelchairs to let the ball bounce twice before it has to be returned.