“Stay out of the kitchen” isn’t only a phrase used at home.
In the sport of pickleball, however, it’s about the last 25% of the court in which a player’s feet can’t touch the inside of a box.
The game is played like tennis, except the court is smaller. It’s like ping pong, too, but the ball and paddles are larger.
After the serve, players don’t move until the return of the ball to play the bounce. And then after the ball is hit, players may work their way to the outer-perimeter of the kitchen. The goal is to hit the ball to the outer corners of the court, or “kill the ball” over the other players to get a point.
Tien Nguyen and his wife Moira Roush (who teaches both tennis and pickleball) said it’s easier than tennis due to the fact there’s less court to play on.
According to Roush, she could teach someone tennis for an hour and then maybe play a game, but in one hour of learning pickleball someone could play the game.
“It’s because it’s easier to learn,” Roush said.
The game is played with doubles, but since the two practice with each other, they prefer singles. But that doesn’t stop Roush from playing and winning doubles matches.
“I went to the U.S. Open in Naples, Fla. (the) second biggest tournament and won the doubles match in my age group...first time going to that was a big deal,” Roush said.
They traveled together to Albuquerque, New Mexico last month for the National Senior Games. The tournament is held every two years and has age group divisions. There’s also lots of preparation.
“We drill a lot,” Nyguen said. “Serving drilling and playing games.”
He and Roush won mixed doubles and will hold their title until the next National Senior Games. Pickleball had around 1,200 competitors split across the age brackets at the event.
“A tournament is finished in one day, that’s why a lot of people like it,” Roush said.
According to Nguyen, in tennis “you would be there for a week.”
Starting pickleball when he was in the navy, Nguyen said he saw a grandfather play with his grandson. He moved to the court and there was a sign saying what time pickleball was being played. Nguyen was hooked after his first session.
His greatest achievement was winning the Nationals, which is the largest world championship. At the time, he had been playing the sport for less than a year.
When Roush realized he was spending most of his time playing the game she decided to join or she wouldn’t see much of Nguyen.
“He came home and said ‘you’re going to want to play,’” she said. “I didn’t love it in the beginning, but I did like it.”
Since both of them have returned last month from the National Senior Games, people are still congratulating them, according to Nguyen.
When Roush isn’t competing, she’s reaching out in the community or giving private lessons to help get people involved. She is also an ambassador for the sport and she holds free clinics for those interested. However, the only pickleball court is at Stephenson Park, and the two said it’s supposed to be replaced with grass. They said out of 400 members, four in seven live in Edmond. The two also play with members of the University of Central Oklahoma tennis coaching staff.
The sport is “good for older people to go out and not sit around and be depressed,” Roush said.