Why pickleball dinks, slams, and rocks our world

By Aubri Steele  |  Photos Courtesy of Civile Apparel

As members of Generation X, my husband and I used to think that pickleball was just a silly game played by our parents and their Baby Boomer friends. However, desperate for a form of outdoor respite during the pandemic, we decided to paint a full-size court in our driveway (albeit lopsided and cracked), to entertain our angst-ridden flock of five teenagers.

Oblivious of its existence beyond the boundaries of home, we quickly became well-versed in the game. It didn’t take long to realize that the smaller court and soft style of play, known as “dinking,” allowed for varying levels of exertion and made the sport truly accessible to all ages. We realized that pickleball was the sport we could play with everyone, despite their age or ability.

With my mother-in-law in remission from ovarian cancer and my father in the final months of his battle with prostate cancer, COVID-19 transmission risks made it impossible for us to gather indoors. Thanks to our discovery of pickleball, birthdays and holidays in 2020 were still spent together, entirely outdoors, with the BBQ going, as we rotated through a few games of this crazy sport. Pickleball brought us together in a year otherwise severely lacking in human interaction.


As restrictions loosened, we began inviting neighbors and friends over to play, all while maintaining a safe social distance and excessive sanitizing of equipment. Everyone who joined us seemed to mention that their street, cul de sac, country club, or local park had now converted to or added pickleball courts. The word was out. Pickleball was, by far, the most accessible and inclusive sport anyone had seen for quite some time and the race for pickleball real estate was on. Courts began to pop up everywhere we looked; large companies began to step in as major sponsors and even a growing number of A-list athletes and celebrities were bitten by the pickleball bug.

Former athletes of all levels seemed thrilled to, once again, have something to compete in—but it wasn’t just former athletes that were lured to the courts. Millions of people were eager to discover this new activity that was socially engaging and high in caloric expenditure, and the alternating styles of play allowed for all of them to participate.


While soft shots (dinks) are a critical element to the game, don’t kid yourself if you think the sport is only for the slow-moving. Slammers and bangers abound. At the highest level of play, rallies (continuous back-and-forth play) will move from delicate and calculated placement in the area closest to the net, known as the “kitchen,” to ball-crushing overhead slams, in seconds. This is a game of pace and place. The more you can fluctuate your speed on the ball and how precisely you can position each shot will make or break your game. The learning curve is steady and the community downright amazing.

Early data indicates that over 36 million people played the sport in 2022 and it is still growing. With the formation of Major League Pickleball, and its subsequent merger with the Professional Pickleball Association, pickleball went from the oddly named backyard game for the few, to a prime time, major network sport for the many, in just under two years. Today, pickleball is the unifying sport that offers everyone an accessible, fun, and competitive respite. So, step up to the baseline and serve.

Aubri Steele is the founder of Civile Apparel, stylish fashions for pickleball players to wear on and off the court. Visit civileapparel.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook @civileapparel.com