NOVI, MI -- Mike Bandrowski and his wife Audrey recently moved to Erickson Living's Fox Run from Traverse City, MI, where he was an avid pickleball player. When he relocated to Novi, Mike wanted to continue to play pickleball, which he describes as a mix of tennis, badminton, and Ping-Pong.
"I said, 'I'm going to have to look for pickleball in the surrounding community or get it started here at Fox Run," Mike says. "So I started talking to community resources staff members Peggy Mather and Tom Hollinshead, and it didn't take long to get it going."
The staff helped Mike turn an unused parking lot into two pickleball courts, and neighbors quickly started gathering to play the game. In a few short weeks, a group of 20 people were getting together three times a week for pickleball games under the summer sunshine.
"It's giving them a source of exercise, and once they start, they are socializing and meeting new people," Mike says. "It's very exciting for everyone involved."
Pickleball is played with a paddle and a ball with plastic holes. It can be played outside, or indoors, using a net the height of a tennis net. The game can be played as singles or doubles, and is fun for people of all ages.
Mike says part of the appeal of pickleball is that it's easier to learn than tennis, and the courts are smaller, so games don't require quite as much running, making it accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Only one of the Fox Run pickleball players had ever played the game before, but Mike says they've all mastered the sport in a few short weeks and are having a ton of fun doing it.
"It's one of the few games that becomes sort of addictive," Mike says. "Once people start playing, they want to play every single day."
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
The two men were looking for something fun to do with their families. They had an old badminton court but no rackets, so they started playing with Ping-Pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. They lowered the net, and soon their families were enjoying an improvised game. Pickleball was born.
The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976, and the USAPA was formed in 1984. In 2001, pickleball was added to the Arizona Senior Olympics. In 2008, it was added to the National Senior Games Champion Festival.
In recent years, pickleball has rapidly grown in popularity. There are now 4,000 places to play pickleball in the U.S.—a figure that has more than doubled since 2010.