Playing sports while obeying safety protocols, like social distancing, can be difficult.
But with many people looking to exercise and stay safe during the pandemic, one sport is now serving up that option: pickleball.
“Compared to other sports where you have a lot of contact with each other, pickleball, you’re very rarely getting close to each other,” said Laura Gainor with USA Pickleball.
Gainor describes pickleball as a sport that’s a mix of badminton and ping-pong. While pickleball is played in an area half the size of a tennis court, the court is big enough to properly social distance.
“You see, everyone keeps a safe distance on the court,” she said. “So, you’re for the most part keeping that six feet of separation.”
According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball grew in popularity by 23% between 2016 and 2019.
“Just being inside all the time, it can really have some adverse effects on your mental health,” said Emma Iacono, an 11th grader from North Carolina.
Her high school has started playing pickleball during the COVID-19 crisis, giving her a physical and emotional escape during quarantine.
“It’s a great way to stay connected to people right now even though the world is sort of by itself,” Iacono said.
Now, more schools across the country are picking up paddles and playing pickleball during the pandemic.
“Once we get those courts out, the kids go crazy,” said Denise Steenstra, a PE who plays pickleball with her students at Liberty Oaks Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri.
“It’s one more piece to a puzzle to a kiddo who’s never tried something before,” Steenstra said. “They have no idea what they’re going to love until you give them a piece of equipment in their hands and they can have success with it.”