Be taught the ins and outs of pickleball from a pair of the game's finest gamers

If you're looking for a fun and relatively inexpensive way to get outdoors and active, pickleball could turn out to be your next great sporting passion. With around five million players in the US alone, Pickleball is one of the fastest growing games in rth America and there is an undeniable outpouring of support for a game first invented in 1965.

To find out what makes people climb for the paddle, M&F sought out two of the best pickleball players on the scene right now, Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin, so we can give you an in-depth look at the basic premise and skills required can , and the equipment needed to become king of the court.

Pickleball has come a long way since its beginnings on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, where it was created by friends who wanted to keep their kids busy during school vacations. wadays, there are pickleball boards all over the world. Matches at the highest level are broadcast on ESPN and CBS - and there's even a Pickleball channel of its own, and the prize money grows every year thanks to increasing sponsorship income.

The Association of Pickleball Professionals began offering purses ranging from $25,000 to $125,000 in 2022. Professional Pickleball Association players will have a chance to take home a share of roughly $10 million in prize money thanks to a merger between Major League Pickleball and the Pickleball Association in 2023, according to Vibe League.

Have we got your attention yet?

Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin

Pickleball Basics

In its simplest form, pickleball is an indoor or outdoor paddling sport in which individual participants or teams of two hit a hollow pickle ball over a net. The game is similar to tennis but played on a court that is a third the size. In Pickleball, all serves are sneaky and the winner is determined when 11 points are reached, but you must win by a clear two points for the game to go over. Another difference from tennis is the fact that one side does not have to serve to score points.

"I think part of the reason people try pickleball compared to other racquet sports is because of how easy it is to learn and how social a sport is," says Catherine Parenteau, a three-time Pickleball US Open- Winner and 16-time winner of the PPA Tour from Montreal, Canada. "I think most players who pick it up end up making friends for life, I know I have them! That's one of the aspects of Pickleball that made me fall in love with him!"

"It makes you feel like you're part of a community and it's the best form of therapy," says Tyson McGuffin, a five-time Grand Slam and four-time national tennis champion. "It's less stuffy than most racquet sports, but still retains its backyard feel." McGuffin, a Washington native, is now a top-flight pickleball star and a multiple medalist at The USAPA.

Both top athletes love teaching the sport as much as they enjoy playing it and will concede that their skill at tennis was a great stepping stone to picking up the pickleball, but they maintain that it really is a sport which is accessible to all. "I think the hardest part of the game for me in the beginning is what you would call the 'soft game,'" says Parenteau. "That includes dinks (soft hitting from a jump) and third-shot drops (soft hitting from a great height), which are very different from tennis because I just wanted to hit everything hard!" Pickleball may have some funky terminology, but this only adds to the feeling of being part of a subculture - once you master it. "If you want to avoid getting 'picked up,' make sure you score at least one point against your opponent," says McGuffin.

Tyson McGuffin tying his draftsman's sneakersCourtesy of Catherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin

Pickleball Gear

Since you need to be able to turn on a dime, run, stop, and run again, you need to make sure you're wearing appropriate clothing similar to that of tennis or badminton. Also crucial to the pickleball game is the paddle, and as you would expect from these two experts in the field, both Parenteau and McGuffin were involved in the development of their own signature paddles. Still, both competitors fully agree that when it comes to footwear, they'll go for the Skechers Viper Pumps every time.

"Whether you're a new or a veteran player, comfort, durability and grip on the pickleball court are all essential," says McGuffin. “Skechers Pickleball shoes feature a Goodyear rubber outsole for enhanced traction, stability and durability on the court. Plus, removable Arch Fit insoles conform to your foot for incredible arch-certified support.”

"I used to compete in regular tennis shoes and they always felt so heavy and clunky," adds Parenteau. "Skechers Viper Courts are built for frequent starts and stops, and a wider toe box allows for freedom of movement."

Tyson McGuffin returns a pickleball serve with a pickleball paddleCatherine Parenteau and Tyson McGuffin

Avoid these pickleball mistakes

"Shot selection isn't very disciplined at entry-level," says McGuffin, who warns that players shouldn't rely too heavily on a "lob." When executed well, an offensive lob can surprise the opponent and give them little time to react, but if you repeat it too often, you become predictable. Instead, make sure you include other hits like the drop shot.

"I think one of the most common mistakes I see when players start out is that they avoid having to learn the 'soft play' and just want to hit everything hard," says Parenteau, who we learned , had to work diligently on this aspect himself. "I get it! It's more fun! However, you won't continue to get away with not being consistent with your dinks or a third shot. So the sooner you start working, the better! Lobbing can be a great strategy … if it is done at the right time!”

Train to win

As with improving your game in any sport, training off the field requires just as much thought as it does on it. "One of my favorite exercises is to improve your reaction time behind the kitchen line (the non-volley zone in front of the net). This exercise requires two players to shoot back and forth at each other from one foot inside the kitchen line,” says Parenteau. “Although technically not allowed in pickleball, the drill is great for hand speed. Because you're a foot closer to each other on each side, you have less time than usual to react. Then, when you come out of the kitchen and volley from the normal spot, you should feel like you have more time, resulting in better reaction time.

"General strength training combined with functional and resistance training also lends itself to pickle," says McGuffin. “Specifically hand speed exercises to work on your reaction and foot speed to make your first step more explosive. I would also suggest incorporating side exercises with a band as well.”

Overall, Pickleball is growing at an incredible rate, and there's never been a better time to pick up the paddle. "It's becoming a lot more mainstream from a professional perspective," says McGuffin. “Professionals can finally make half their living from the sport. In addition to pros signing branded deals (like Skechers), the prize money is increasing and it's also super accessible - and cheap enough - to play at your local park.”

"I still love it," shares Parenteau. “I feel so fortunate to be able to teach and compete professionally in the sport I love! It's a great way to be active because while difficult to master, it's easy to pick up and learn. Most groups of four can score full points in less than an hour, and you could never do that in tennis, for example.”

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