Every afternoon at the University of California, Riverside, the pickleball courts at the Student Recreation Center, or SRC, are a hub of activity. Since their introduction to the campus for the 2023-24 school year, the pickleball courts have attracted a stream of students and university faculty and staff.
Pickleball, a sport blending aspects of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, is played on a court smaller than a tennis court. Participants use solid paddles to strike a plastic ball, reminiscent of a wiffle ball. Scoring in pickleball has similarities to volleyball, with points being earned only by the serving side. Games are played to 11 points and to win, a player or team must have a lead of at least two points.
This scoring system adds an exciting, strategic layer to the game, as players must not only focus on scoring but also on defending effectively when their opponent is serving.
"It's not just a game; it's a great way to stay fit," said third-year biology major Luke Dawes, who plays pickleball weekly.
Austin Perkins, a third-year business and economics major, was a pickleball enthusiast even before its introduction on campus. He started playing in his hometown's retirement community.
“Sometimes we’ll run into friends while working out at the SRC and end up playing a two-on-two game after our workout,” he said. “Everyone who’s playing is slowly learning and improving.”
NPR reported that pickleball is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States, with more than 4.8 million players now playing. This surge in interest is reflected by usership at the SRC.
Erica Woods, SRC member service manager, said pickleball racquets were checked out 3,183 times during fall quarter. This compares to 2,332 checkouts for tennis racquets and 4,025 for badminton racquets, which remain a student favorite. Early in the winter quarter, by Jan. 18, pickleball racquets had already been checked out 498 times.
“We are planning to convert the court to permanent lines once we move forward with resurfacing all the tennis courts, which should be in the next couple of years,” said Michael D. Eason, SRC associate director of facility operations.
For those interested in joining the pickleball fun, the courts are at the SRC on tennis court No. 2. Equipment is available for rental at the SRC's front desk.
For up-to-date information on the availability of the courts, including days and hours of operation, visit the SRC Open Recreation webpage.