Jose A. Mosqueda | The Poly Post

Pickleball is the kiddie pool of tennis

By David Pendleton, Sept. 26, 2023

It was match point and I should’ve been tired, but I had all the energy in the world because for the first time in eight years I was going to beat the one opponent I never could. The tennis match came down to the third set and I refused to lose. I spent years of blood, sweat and tears to perform at this level. My aggressive topspin on the ball set me up for the approach shot and nothing could compare to the feeling of hitting that winning shot. All those years of training I sacrificed on the court finally came into fruition.  

Now those same tennis courts I have made so many memories on are turning into pickleball courts. The satisfying popping sound of a tennis ball bouncing off a racquet is now fading away to the annoying sound of loud dinks.  

For three years in a row, pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Initially, the majority of participants were elderly people using the game as a way to help improve their blood circulation, but now the sport has developed as a community for all ages.  

A pickleball court is just over a quarter the size of an actual tennis court and is played with a small, hard-surfaced paddle. To keep the ball from getting a huge bounce, the game is played with a wiffleball.  

Pickleball, like spike ball, is a fun social sport to meet and interact with different people, but it has now become the quick satisfaction for young athletes and kids to resort to because they don’t want to go through the longer process of learning tennis.  

Due to the rise in popularity of pickleball, the church I attend built pickleball courts as a fun activity to connect members and nonmembers. During one of the events, I met a family with young boys who turned down the opportunity to play tennis because pickleball was easier to learn.  

Tennis is by far a more satisfying sport to win for the very reason it is more difficult than pickleball. Many people are choosing to play pickleball instead because there is little to no learning curve. However, just because something is easier doesn’t make it the better choice.  

Tennis teaches players how to hit groundstrokes, volleys, serves and slices. Each shot has a different grip, footing, unit turn, contact point and follow-through. Since tennis racquets have strings, players must adapt to opponents who use topspin, underspin and flat shots. 

Although tennis is more difficult to learn than pickleball and takes more time that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth learning. Young people, especially children, should devote their time to learning tennis instead of pickleball, because tennis inflicts more suffering. We tend to look at suffering as a bad thing;  I personally have suffered physically and mentally during and after tennis matches. But suffering is an opportunity to become stronger, gain perspective and build perseverance. 

On top of playing for over a decade, I have been coaching tennis for almost four years. Throughout my years of teaching tennis, I have seen my younger players develop skills of extreme difficulty. 

Some of my players, who are 11 years old, can hit shots, move quickly and finish points in ways most adults can’t. Tennis teaches young players how to handle both mental and physical difficulties, which could benefit them in school and a career. 

My students love tennis. I have hosted multiple inhouse tournaments with them and a huge motivator is when they are able to defeat an opponent they previously lost to. Being able to see how they improve pushes them to keep practicing and develop more variety to their game. All the hard work they have put in is paying off, putting most of them on track to be varsity prospects going into their freshman year of high school. 

It doesn’t have to just be young athletes and kids learning tennis. Both my parents play together on a weekly basis. Although a tennis court is much bigger than a pickleball court, players have the option of competing in both doubles and singles.

According to an epidemiological study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, tennis is one of the healthiest sports for a person to play. What makes tennis so exciting compared to pickleball is how fast paced and long the rallies can be. Pickleball players are reduced to having to dink the ball over the net softly until someone hits the ball high enough to try and put it away. Tennis players are taught a variety of different ways to win points.  

Jose A. Mosqueda | The Poly Post

The rise of pickleball is increasing demand for tennis coaches to coach pickleball as well. People who are willing to invest time and money in learning a racquet sport are missing out on the opportunity to learn tennis. The United States Tennis Association offers local tennis tournaments and events across the U.S. 

Many colleges, including Cal Poly Pomona, have intramural tennis for students to play both competitively and socially. 

CPP Tennis Club captain Joshua Lebel stated, “I think it’s good people are interested in pickleball, but I do wish tennis could get a little more love out of it and we could get support overall.”  

People need to realize pickleball is the kiddie pool of tennis. Pickleball players need to take off the floaties and try tennis because they’re missing out on the opportunity to thrive in the deep end. 

Feature image courtesy of Jose Mosqueda

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