The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

The Latest
The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

The student news site of The Archer School for Girls

The Oracle

What’s the dill: Exploring the popularity of pickleball

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • A pickleball ball lays still on the sport court on Archer’s back field. As a part of their fitness curriculum, 10th graders have a pickleball unit, where they practice drills and participate in round-robin style play. 

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • While carrying one of the pickleball nets, Dakota Tooley (’26), Tatiana Bojeczko (’26) and Callie Roth (’26) set up the sport court for their fitness class. Like Tooley and Bojecko, each student was assigned a doubles partner and participated in multiple matches during their class.

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Laura Borstein (’26) swings and returns her opponent’s shot during her pickleball match. Loud popular music accompanied the popping noise of the wiffle ball hitting the players paddles. “I don’t play pickleball regularly,” Borstein said. “But I’ve had a great time learning the game over these past few weeks. I think it intersects a lot of important skills that apply to different sports.”

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Leaping for a higher shot during a warm up, Roth returns the ball to her partner, Alexa Kagiwada (’26). This fitness rotation was sophomore Flynn Weaver’s first time playing pickleball. “It helps with hand-eye coordination, and I think it’s so fun. Each day, you get to play with a different partner, and it’s a great opportunity to get to know people,” Weaver said. “Through this, I’ve gotten to know people that I haven’t really spoken to that much.”

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Bojeczko prepares her return to her opponent’s serve. She, as well as Dylan Schwartz (’26), are also members of Archer’s varsity tennis team and found a lack of connection between the sports. “I won’t lie — there isn’t a lot of crossover in terms of skill between pickleball and tennis,” Schwartz said. “I feel like pickleball harms my tennis game in some ways. For example, it causes some bad habits in my swing.”

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Jumping and high-fiving after winning one of their round-robin matches, Bojeczko and Tooley celebrate together. Students played games to a clock and rotated so they got to play as many different pairs as possible. “We’ve done a lot of team-building, even just in this fitness class alone,” Tooley said. “During doubles, it’s so fun because she pushes me to be a better player and partner.” 

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Students rotate their courts and opponents between matches. The class was comprised of people of all different experiences with racket sports. “I don’t like that … well, yes it’s a faster game, but I don’t like how there isn’t as much movement as other sports,” Bojeczko said. 

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
  • Sophomores Emerson Cohen and Lola Thomas shake hands at the end of the class. Though filled with friendly competition, students said pickleball was also a great way to make new friends. “It’s just a great community bonding game. It is exercise too because it gets you fit, and you’re running to the ball,” Alexa Grant (’26) said. “But, along with exercise, it helps us have fun. We are all enjoying playing doubles with each other whether we are good or not.”

    Photo credit: Oona Seppala
Navigate Left
Navigate Right

It’s a Saturday summer afternoon in 1965, and two friends, Joe Pritchard and Bill Bell, returned home from golfing with nothing to do. They marched their way over to their property’s badminton court but were at a loss when they couldn’t find rackets to play with. No matter, though, as they had two ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. As they discovered different tricks to enhance their game, they stumbled across what would become a 36-million-player, worldwide phenomenon: pickleball.

According to Sports News, pickleball was named after the “pickle boats” in the sport of crew. The pickle boat was comprised of rowers who were put together at random. The name is fitting considering the game is made up of miscellaneous pieces from badminton and ping pong.

Like many sports, the name doesn’t tell us much about the inner workings of the game. Pickleball is played on a 20 foot by 44 foot court with a net, two “kitchens” and four service boxes. Players serve underhand to the box diagonal to their box and typically move up into the court upon play. Players may step into the kitchen, a marked area just behind the net, but they cannot volley there. Other important rules include that players can only score points on their serve, and games usually go to 11 points, but you must win by two points.

…it appeals to people of all ages. A big demographic is there’s a lot of people who haven’t played sports in 10 years or 15 years, and they’re in their 40s and 50s and 60s, but they can still play this sport.”

— Dan Keston

But what is driving one in 10 Americans to play or try the sport? Dan and Amanda Keston are parents to Riley Keston (‘29) and Parker Keston (‘25) and are also regular “picklers.” Amanda Keston started playing pickleball during the pandemic. Dan Keston began playing at the beginning of 2023 after being unable to continue playing basketball and soccer. He explained how he was seeking exercise that was not too strenuous, but rather enjoyable and relaxing.

“When we started playing pickleball together, I would stay more at the backline and just hit it as hard as I could, and both of us ended up getting a little bit of tennis elbow,” Dan Keston said. “But that’s when we realized that in this game, you have to run into the net a lot, and it’s not really about sitting in the back doing forehand strokes, so that was when I got a better paddle and began taking it more seriously.”

The Kestons belong to the Jonathan Club, where there are many outdoor pickleball courts as well as a competitive league, which they won last year. Dan Keston plays anywhere between two to three times a week with a regular group of players.

“It’s a very short learning curve. People go out and play pickleball, and you immediately can be like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ So you can become average fairly quickly. I think that appeals to a lot of people,” Dan Keston said. “The other thing is that it appeals to people of all ages. A big demographic is there’s a lot of people who haven’t played sports in 10 years or 15 years, and they’re in their 40s and 50s and 60s, but they can still play this sport.”

Despite having a reputation for being a sport for older generations and retirees, survey data debunks this myth. Almost 29% of pickleball players are between ages 18-34, which is the largest age bracket.

Francie Wallack (‘25) first heard about pickleball from her grandmother almost five years ago. Though she said she doesn’t get to play as much as she wants to, she still enjoys going to play with her friends and family.

“I was actually very hesitant to play because I kind of saw pickleball as fake tennis. But when I actually began playing it, I realized how fun it was because it felt less competitive than tennis,” Wallack said. “It’s fun to play with friends because you’re close to them so you can talk while playing, and it’s very social.”

Wallack is also a competitive tennis player, and she observed that many tennis players complain that pickleball is “taking over” tennis facilities. She explained that her philosophy is that tennis is for exercise and strategy whereas pickleball is for socializing.

“I think people my age are playing pickleball because it’s fun. We’re closer to our friends when we’re on the court so we can have conversations when rallying. The rules are also less tedious than tennis, and it feels like once you get the hang of it, then you just kind of know what you’re doing,” Wallack said. “And it’s less running which is really nice. But, I think some of the older generations like it because they do get a lot of exercise, but it’s not super strenuous.”

It’s cool because it fosters both competition and community. It allows for people to get exercise or socialize, or both.”

— Francie Wallack ('25)

Pickleball is less expensive than tennis. The cost of tennis shoes, rackets and apparel can add up quickly, whereas pickleball paddles and balls are significantly cheaper. This might be another reason people are quick to jump on the pickleball bandwagon, according to Pickleball Kitchen. For racket sport clubs, four pickleball courts can fit on one tennis court. This means more revenue and customers for a cheaper price.

“You can have more people on the court and make it a more vibrant game,” Amanda Keston said. “So I think that’s one reason why tennis clubs and other places have adopted it because you can get more people out there and make more money. But I don’t think that pickleball will overtake tennis.” 

Arguably one of the most noticeable upticks in pickleball players was during the pandemic. According to the U.S. News, there was a 40% surge in play, which was likely due to people looking for other forms of connection and exercise that was agreeable with the lockdowns terms.

Amongst the 10,724 places to play pickleball nationwide, Santa Monica Pickleball Center opened Dec. 4, 2022, and sees an average of 6000 players monthly. Jonathan Neeter has been the owner of the Santa Monica Tennis Center since 2010, which then expanded to Santa Monica Pickleball Center in 2022. He explained in an email how pickleball was a “social outlet” for people during the pandemic, and though it was a business risk, their four courts are busy and available for anyone to book today.

“It was more of serving the need we saw in the community for the growth of pickleball while still being able to service our long time tennis clients,” Neeter wrote in an email. “It was a ‘huge risk,’ but revenue numbers have doubled and the court and retail store has never been busier.”

It’s hard to know if the popularity of pickleball will continue to climb so rapidly, but it has left a lasting impact on communities around the nation. Wallack said that from affordability to facilitating community and exercise, pickleball is truly a sport for any level or age.

“It’s cool because it fosters both competition and community. It allows for people to get exercise or socialize, or both,” Wallack said. “It’s definitely a really unique sport, which I think draws so many people to it.”  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Oona Seppala
Oona Seppala, Senior Reporter
Oona Seppala joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She plays on the varsity tennis team, is a member of Archer's a cappella group, is on the Honor Education Council and Service Squad. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, and playing instruments.

Comments (0)

As part of Archer’s active and engaged community, the Editorial Board welcomes reader comments and debate and encourages community members to take ownership of their opinions by using their names when commenting. However, in order to ensure a diverse range of opinions, the editorial board does allow anonymous comments on articles as long as the perspective cannot be obtained elsewhere, and they are respectful and relevant. We do require a valid, verified email address, which will not be displayed, but will be used to confirm your comments. Because we are a 6-12 school, the Editorial Board reserves the right to omit profanity and content that we deem inappropriate for our audience. We do not publish comments that serve primarily as an advertisement or to promote a specific product. Comments are moderated and may be edited in accordance with the Oracle’s profanity policy, but the Editorial Board will not change the intent or message of comments. They will appear once approved.
All The Oracle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *