PICKLEBALL, a game founded in the United States half-a-century ago, is slowly but surely gaining popularity in Seremban, Negri Sembilan, after a court was built at the Royal Sungei Ujong Club (RSUC) here.
RSUC Pickeball section secretary Shafiq Pritpal Abdullah said the number of people playing the game — which draws inspiration from table tennis, tennis, badminton and squash — had been increasing.
“We started playing the game on a tennis court in a condominium complex in Bukit Kaya earlier this year.“We now have a pickleball court at RSUC after the club approved a proposal from some club members to convert an outdoor badminton court,” he said, adding that some 35 members had since registered to play the game at the club.
Shafiq said the pickleball court at the RSUC might be the first in the state.
“We know for a fact that the game has become popular in Miri, Sarawak, where members of a club play it regularly.
“Apart from playing it ourselves, we want more people to know the game as people of all ages can play it and it is not as taxing as other racquet games,” he said, adding that those playing at RSUC were between 25 and 79 years old.
Shafiq said it was sheer coincidence how the pickleball game was founded in Bainbridge Island in Washington in 1965.
Friends Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell and their families had gathered for a summer holiday at the former’s house but the friends soon realised that their wives and children were bored.
Since there was a badminton court at Pritchard’s property, they thought they could pass the afternoons playing the game but could not find enough racquets.
Realising they had a few table tennis bats and a wiffle ball (a perforated plastic ball), they began playing their new game on the badminton court.
They enjoyed the game so much and eventually came up with a set of rules which was improvised as the days passed.
One of their friends, Barney McCullum, was soon introduced to the game and it had since become a recognised sport in the United States.
Shafiq said the paddles for the game were larger than table tennis bats but smaller than normal tennis racquets.
These are either made of wood, graphite or other composite materials.
“The singles or doubles game is usually played using a 11-point system on a court similar to a badminton court.
“The basic rules are that when you serve, you do so from behind the baseline and without bouncing the ball off the court.
“It has to be served diagonally to the opponent’s court and if he or she hits the ball into the net or outside the boundary lines, then you get a point,” he said, adding that one could pick up the game by just watching others play.
Shafiq said the club members planned to promote the game to other Seremban folk in the near future.
“Once the Covid-19 situation improves, we plan to hold clinics for locals, especially government servants.
“The advantage of pickleball is that it can be played by everyone irrespective of age,” he said, adding that the paddles could cost as low as RM100 to several hundred ringgit, depending on its material.
The game, he said, could also be played indoors or on a smaller court. “Once more courts are built, I am sure the game will have a greater following,” he said, adding that the game was also becoming increasingly popular in many other countries.