Why Is Pickleball Addictive?

Lea Jansen
(picture Kerry Pittenger)

And what an addiction to have, one with pleasures, benefits, and rewards. Anyone who has played at least once has learned a thing or two about themselves and about their fellow players. Because of pickleball, people the world over have gotten in shape, made friends, become more active, and risen to the mental and physical challenges.

Why Pickleball Attracts Many

But why, really, has the sport been attracting followers in astounding numbers? Why are so many paddle shopping, gear shopping, paying to play? Among other reasons–intensity. Pickleball demands hyperalertness while laboring through points–no standing around waiting, the time for action here and now. Ready or not, the ball is coming, from left and right, its trajectory high and low. One must watch their teammate, watch their opponents, watch the ball, watch the patterns, then counter, move, and attack. During firefights the action becomes a blur, players’ instincts and reflexes in complete control, an adrenaline rush like no other.

The Strategy and Skill Behind Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport of complex shots and strategies that, once learned and adapted to one’s game, make for fluid, competitive matches. As players improve, addiction latches on. Better skills mean a deeper addiction, a craving that cannot be governed.

The Sensory Experience of Pickleball

The sound of pickleball–some love it, some loathe it. I’ve been told that the sound of the paddle striking the ball just right is the sound of accomplishment, the sound of power, the sound of a target being struck as intended; the sound of a rally itself is a drug, which is why the most casual recreational players can’t stay away from that 20×44 battlezone.

The Unpredictability of Pickleball Matches

Pickleball matches can be unpredictable. Even a losing team can in a short time overcome a wide deficit and win. About to get pickled? Don’t lose your composure, don’t get sloppy, don’t give up. Players have fought back, it’s true, one point at a time, in both singles and doubles, and won. The hunger to play again and again, then–the desire to outplay or outsmart opponents–becomes insatiable.

Pickleball: A Sport for All

As a recreational player, “I’m addicted” has caught my ear a number of times during games and in off-court huddles and before and after matches, by people of all ages, even by those who don’t think of themselves as decent players or by any means athletic. But they keep showing up and putting in the time and the work because pickleball makes them feel alive and in motion, as though they are working toward something significant–perhaps a period of awakening. And they are! With pickleball, addiction carries meaningful connotations, giving all who take paddle in hand and step on court a foundation to build on and expand from. Let’s keep it that way!

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About David Boyle

A versatile and diversified writer, David Boyle has written three short story collections, published by independent presses. Though he earned his readership by writing reality-based fiction, Boyle has gained a reputation for literary stories, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, analyses, travel writing, reportage, and poems, a good number of which have appeared in both print and online magazines. Inspired by his wife's passion for the sport, David now loves pickleball and aims to illuminate current pickleball events and subjects with a fresh, creative perspective, offering readers something they can't find anywhere else. | My website | boyled411@gmail.com | My Pickleball Journal

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