CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There's a new sport that's seemingly everywhere these days: Pickleball!
The sport with a funny name is certainly growing in popularity in Charlotte. At Sports Connection south Charlotte, pickleball isn't just a game, it's a way of life. With 14 indoor courts and four outdoor courts, you can almost always find a game going.
Leesa Walker is the director of Pickleball Charlotte at Sports Connection, and she's also a certified instructor of the sport. She says what makes it so popular is anyone can play.
"The part about pickleball that makes it so much fun is the low learning curve," she said. "It's cross-generational. For example, of our 525 members, our youngest is 11 and the oldest is 84. It's just a wonderful thing that parents and children can play, grandparents and grandchildren can play."
Another benefit is the low cost of equipment. Walker said all you need is a good pair of shoes, a paddle and a ball. That's it!
Walker explains the game is sort of like the kid sister to tennis. Instead of using a racket, you have a paddle. Instead of a tennis ball, you play with a whiffle ball.
"What looks like a small tennis court is actually more like a life-sized ping pong table," Walker said. "Unlike tennis, this game is played more moving forward versus the big backswings."
The basic rules of pickleball are to keep the ball within the lines of the court and don't let the ball bounce more than once before hitting it. You can only score points when your team is serving and the first team to 11 points wins. Having fun isn't an official rule, but that's what the game's all about.
“The sport gives you such a nice physical workout, but it is very social and it is also something that can be a little easier on the body," Walker said. "You'll have retired NFL players or baseball players in this game because they can play without injury. It's just a great way to stay competitive as you age, it kind of meets all those circles in your life, with the social, emotional and physical."
If you want to get in on the fun, Pickleball Charlotte offers two levels of memberships.
The basic membership is $50 a year with a $5 fee for each open play session. The deluxe membership is $425 with no additional fee for open play. Non-members can play for $10 each open play session.
Or play for free at the more than two dozen public pickleball courts throughout Charlotte. You can find a list of those courts here.