Pop, shuffle, whoops of victory. Those are the sounds of San Jose’s latest sport on the rise: pickleball.
Pickleball, a combination of tennis, table tennis and badminton, ranks as the fastest growing sport nationwide for the last three years by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association—and San Jose has thousands of fans.
With 58 courts throughout the city and more than 2,400 Facebook members of the San Jose Pickleball Club, players of all ages and abilities are flocking to local courts to play.
San Jose resident and member of the Doerr Park pickleball group Harold Treat said he first heard about the sport two years ago after his wife died from cancer. He joined after some friends encouraged him and found a community in the game. Treat said he loves all of the positives the sport has brought into his life.
“It was a real lifesaver actually,” Treat told San José Spotlight. “It keeps me physically active, mentally active, socially active, and I get the benefits of being outside in the sunshine and fresh air.”
The Doerr Park group plays every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the tennis courts from 9 a.m. to noon. Their oldest member is 85.
To play, competitors batter the bright green pickleball back and forth over the net within the bounds of the 44 by 20 foot court. The game is played as doubles or singles and normally ends at 11 points, if one team or person wins by two points.
Courts can range from a designated pickleball court to an overlay court, where paint outlines the smaller court size in a normal tennis court.
Karen Bacica, Campbell resident and member of the Doerr Park pickleball group, discovered the game in 2018, three years after she retired. Now, she plays with her grandkids and has recruited several friends over the years.
“They were sick of me talking about pickleball until they came out and tried it,” she told San José Spotlight.
Bacica plans to attend the 2023 U.S. Pickleball National Championships in Dallas this November. Players can win up to $200,000 in both the pro and senior pro divisions.
The San Jose Pickleball Club received a commendation for the collective good it does in District 9 from Councilmember Pam Foley last week.
Foley told San José Spotlight she has seen “tremendous” growth in pickleball in her district, which has 23 courts. Calls come in to her office every month asking for more courts or requesting additional court lighting. Foley is planning to add three more courts to De Anza Park by next year.
Foley, who has tried the game, said the community fostered by regular players is welcoming to people of all skill levels. Foley is eager for she and her husband to start beginner classes.
“The community spirit they generate is fabulous,” she said. “So everyone should not be intimidated. Go get yourself a paddle, go out and play.”
Bacica said she plans to play into her 80s.
“I feel like it’s my happy place,” she told San José Spotlight. “It definitely lifts me up to be able to do this.”