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Have you noticed that some of the tennis players in town have switched from racquets to paddles and from fuzzy, yellow tennis balls to plastic, white whiffle balls? Chances are you witnessed the game of pickleball.

A cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country with nearly 3 million pickleball players in the United States, up 12 percent from last year.

According to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association, the first pickleball game was created in 1965 by three dads — one of whom was U.S. Representative  and Washington Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard — seeking new ideas to displace their kids’ summertime doldrums. They had access to a badminton court, but no badminton equipment so they improvised with ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball. By 1976, the sport was featured in Tennis magazine as “America’s newest racquet sport.”

Pickleball is played as singles or doubles — two or four players — on a badminton-sized court that is roughly a quarter of the size of a tennis court. Serves are delivered underhand, the ball must bounce once on the serve before it can be returned, games are played to 11 points and players must win by two. Stepping into the top end of the court, the non-volley zone — also known as the “kitchen” — to return a ball before it bounces is an automatic loss of point.

Other terms to know before you go:

• Baseline: The line at the back of the court.

• Crosscourt: The opponent's court diagonally opposite each player's court.

• Dink: A soft shot intended to narrowly clear the net and drop into the non-volley zone.

• Fault: An infringement of the rules that ends the rally, e.g. hitting the ball out of bounds.

• Lob: Sending the ball across the net in a high arc to the back of an opponent's court.

• Net serve: A serve that touches the top of the net, requiring a replay.

• Non-volley zone (a.k.a. kitchen): The seven-foot area on either side of the net where you may not volley the ball.

• Overhead smash: The most aggressive shot in pickleball, the smash (or slam) is an overhead, forehanded shot aimed downward into an opponent’s court.

• Poach: Crossing over into a partner's area to make a play on the ball.

• Rally: Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams.

• Side out: When the serve moves to the opponent’s team.

• Two-bounce rule: When the ball is served, the receiving team must let it bounce once before returning, and then the serving team must also let it bounce before returning, thus two bounces.

• Volley: Hitting the ball before it touches the ground.

If you are curious to learn more, you are in luck. As part of its Passport to Health Living program, AARP will host a free pickleball class 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Johnny Gisi Memorial Park, 2601 E. Calgary Ave. The class, open to all ages, will begin with a demonstration and then move to hands-on practice with paddles and pickleballs. No need to bring equipment, but participants should wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes. To register, go to https://aarp.cvent.com/PickleballBisAug2018.

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