Pick up on the rising trend of pickleball and meet a pro in Birmingham

Birmingham, pickleball
Look at that hit! Photo via Adam Fritsch

Pickleball popularity is skyrocketing across Birmingham. So grab a paddle and pickle up—it’s time to discover why this game is so awesome.

What is pickleball and does it involves pickles?

Birmingham, pickleball
Photo by Joan Azeka via Unsplash

So what the heck is pickleball? No, it doesn’t involve pickles—unfortunately. It’s actually a paddleball or racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. 

The game includes two to four players and takes place on a court that has the dimensions and layout of a badminton court and a net and rules that are similar to tennis. 

Players use paddles made of wood or composite materials and hit a perforated polymer ball back and forth across a net. 

The first side to score 11 points leading by at least two points wins the game. Though tournament games may be played to 11, 15 or 21 points. 

Official game rules here.

A groovy history

Birmingham, pickleball
Photo via Pickler Pickleball’s Facebook page

To learn where pickleball got its start, we need to travel back in time to the grooviest decade in history—the 1960s. 

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by three dad friends—Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. One summer day when their kids were bored, the dads decided to get crafty. When they were unable to find tennis rackets, they improvised with ping pong paddles and well…the rest is history.

Over the past five decades, pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular, ever-growing sport. 

That name though…

Birmingham, pickleball
Can’t play pickleball without the “pickle.” Photo via Pickler Pickleball’s Facebook page

Now onto the biggest question of all, where did the name pickleball come from?

While some sports have names that make sense like baseball and basketball for example, pickleball lands on the “say whaaa?” list.

There are two stories behind the name, but I’m only going to tell you one of them b/c it’s much more entertaining. 

According to internet sources everywhere, pickleball was named after co-inventor Joe Pritchard’s dog who was named Pickles. This game just gets better and better doesn’t it?

Honestly, edible pickles or not, I love the name. But, I am a true fan of creative humor. 

Pickleball in Birmingham

Birmingham, pickleball
Photo via Adam Fritsch

Not many people know this, but way back when during my junior high school days, I actually won the girls pickleball tournament in PE. No, I do not have a pic. But, it happened and I’ll forever be a fan of the sport.

So, when I discovered that pickleball is continuing to grow at rapid speed around Birmingham, I was totally stoked. To learn a bit more about pickleball, I reached out to local pickleball player, teacher and enthusiast, Adam Fritsch. 

Fritsch started playing pickleball in 2012 as a fun recreational activity when he had the time. But as his skills increased, he started to play competitively in tournaments across the country. 

Birmingham, pickleball
2019 Heritage Tournament in Hoover. Photo via Adam Fritsch

Early this year, he even decided to make a business out of it, joining Engage Pickleball as a Brand Ambassador and a reseller of their paddles, clothing and accessories. Check out the shop here

Another thing Fritsch does is give pickleball lessons. He offers lessons all over the greater Birmingham area to beginners and also teaches advanced techniques. 

To sign up for pickleball lessons with Fritsch, visit his website or contact him directly at 407.625.0157.

One of his favorite places to play the game is at Crestwood Park where he belongs to a group of fellow pickleball enthusiasts. According to Fritsch, the group started at the beginning of 2020 with about 10 to 12 people. But the group continues to grow. They now have around 40 to 50 people that get together to play on a regular basis. 

“Our group at Crestwood are like a family. In fact, we call ourselves ‘The Legendary Pickleball Family.’ It’s amazing how pickleball brings people together socially.”

Adam Fritsch

Other local groups can be found all over the greater Birmingham area. Here are some Facebook groups to join to learn about local games, competitions and more:

Who can play?

The answer to that is anyone! According to Fritsch:

“Pickleball is an easy to learn sport that anyone can play. The courts are smaller so there is less movement involved, making it less strenuous on the body, but at the same time it’s great exercise.”

So grab your kiddo, your pal or your 80-year-old grandma and hit the court.

Attend Pickleball Camp

Believe it or not, there is even a pickleball camp you can sign up for. Engage Pickleball Camp takes place October 2-4 at the Clay Tennis and Pickleball Center. That’s about a 30-40 minute drive from downtown Birmingham. 

During the three-day camp, you’ll receive lessons from US Open Pro Medalist Robert Elliot. 

Learn more + sign up.

Where can I play?

There are literally tons of places to play pickleball around the greater Birmingham area. Here are just some of them:

  • Bessemer Parks + Recreation Center: 200-256 14th St, Bessemer, AL 35020
  • Chelsea Community Center: 11101 Hwy 47, Chelsea, AL 35043
  • Clay Tennis + Pickleball Center: 6745 Old Springville Rd., Clay, AL 35048
  • Crestwood Park: 5400 Crestwood Blvd, Birmingham, AL 35212
  • Gardendale Parks & Rec: 2109 Moncrief Rd, Gardendale, AL 35071
  • George Ward Tennis Center: 1871 Green Springs Hwy, Birmingham, AL 35205
  • Heardmont Park: 5458 Cahaba Valley Rd, Birmingham, AL 35242
  • Jewish Community Center (JCC): 3960 Montclair Rd, Birmingham, AL 35213
  • Joe Tucker Park: 230 Tucker Rd, Helena, AL 35080 
  • Trussville Park + Recreation Center: 5381 Trussville Clay Rd, Trussville, AL 35173
  • Vestavia Hills Civic Center: 1973 Merryvale Rd, Vestavia Hills, AL 35216

For even more places to play pickleball, click here

You can even download the PickleUp app to discover places to play, invite others to join a game, find local players and more.

Do you play pickleball? Let us know where you play and what you love about it on social @bhamnow.com.

Patience Itson
Patience Itson
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