Editorial: Pickleball expansion can keep aging population active

Despite its silly name, the game of Pickleball, and the recent opening of the county's first public Pickleball courts in New Windsor could be a big deal for Carroll's senior and aging community, and a fun way for them to remain active as they age.

Despite its silly name, the game of pickleball, and the recent opening of the county's first public pickleball courts in New Windsor could be a big deal for Carroll's senior and aging population, and a fun way for them to remain active as they age.

A few years ago, "NBC Nightly News" reported that pickleball was one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and it's easy to see why: Almost anyone can play the game, which is a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong played on a small court.


The game was invented by U.S. Rep. Joel Pritchard, Washington, in the mid-60s, when he and his friends attempted to set-up badminton for their families to play, but couldn't find a shuttlecock. Instead, they improvised, finding a wiffleball and table tennis paddles, and lowering the net, according to the game's official website, Thus, the sport was born, getting its unusual name from Pritchard's wife, Joan, who said it reminded her "of the Pickle Boat in crew, where oarsman were chosen from leftovers of other boats," according to a column she wrote for the West Virginia newspaper the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. pickleball has evolved since those humble beginnings about 50 years ago, including paddles and balls specifically designed for the game, and has taken off in recent years.

Nearly 2.5 million people play pickleball in the U.S., according to the Sports & Fitness Association's 2015 Participation Report. The game has become particularly popular among seniors who want to remain active, but can no longer play traditional court sports, which can take a toll on a person's joints. Tennis Industry magazine reports that about 68 percent of pickleball players are over the age of 60.

Carroll has a few regular players, and the game was introduced to a broader audience this spring at TryVent, an effort put together by the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County that encouraged the 45 and older set to get moving.

The Partnership was also on-hand for the unveil of the New Windsor pickleball courts at Sulphur Springs Park behind the fire station, which are actually just new markings on the existing tennis courts. It's a relatively inexpensive change, but one that can help the game expand. The hope is to eventually have pickleball markings on municipal tennis courts throughout the county. We think that's a great idea.

About 35 percent of Carroll's population is 50 or older, according to the 2015 American Community Survey. Exercise is important for the physical and mental well-being of everyone, but experts say it's especially important people stay active as they get older, when there is a tendency to take it easy. Staying active can prevent or delay some diseases and disabilities, in some cases can improve your health, and it also helps people to maintain their independence as they age.

Low impact sports like pickleball can help our aging population remain active without the concerns of exacerbating the aches and pains that come with getting older.

If you haven't given the sport a try, we encourage you to visit the courts in New Windsor to learn more about it, and if you do, help push your community to follow New Windsor's lead in adding pickleball markings to local tennis courts to expand the game here.