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Pickleball originated as a game played on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Fast forward 50 years, now it is defined by its Wiffle-ball-sized bright green perforated ball as a sport.

A mix between pingpong and badminton, pickleball is played on a 20-by-44-foot court with a 36-inch tall net dividing the two sides.

"You have to be able to have a good eye and good judgment. You have to be able to think while you play. Serving is really stressful," said Teesha Monroe, a junior sociology major and employee of UCF intramural sports. "This game is really different."

Combining the coordination of tennis players, delicacy of badminton and swiftness of table tennis, it didn't take long before UCF players immersed themselves into the IM tournament, discovering the intricacies of the new intramural sport.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Washington State congressman Joel Pritchard. According to the USA Pickleball Association, Pritchard originally invented the game because he could not find a set of badminton equipment, so he and a friend improvised with table tennis paddles and a plastic ball.

Pickleball is a sport that can be played with up to four players — two on each side.

John Conley, an intramural sports graduate assistant, said the game was introduced to IM sports in spring 2014 as a one-day tournament and has been held each semester since.

"We hope to get the word out about the sport. We grew a lot this year and hope to continue each year," Conley said. "If someone was interested, they could start an RSO and make an actual pickleball team."

Signups for the tournament are open for all UCF students, and they have an option to play solo or with a partner. Each tournament lasts about three hours.

The last pickleball tournament of the semester took place on April 18 at the Recreation and Wellness Center. A diverse crowd of students, athletes and IM sports employees lined up for their turn in the tournament and attracted the attention of inquiring students.

Alongside Monroe, senior health sciences major Amanda Hall participated in the doubles event in the April tournament.

"My mom plays tennis and this is a little more relaxed version of it," Hall said.

Hall insisted that the game can be more enjoyable for tennis lovers who may lack the athleticism for the outdoor sport.

Although pickleball is considered a sport, it caters to a diverse crowd of people of different ages and athletic experience. Ultimately, the game is about fun and teamwork.

"The intimacy of the small court creates a very social atmosphere. It doesn't take long before strangers who come together to play pickleball will go out for lunch after play or invite each other to social events. Friendships are made very quickly," said Dave Vander Weide, a USA Pickleball Association ambassador for the Greater Orlando area.

Weide is responsible for raising pickleball's awareness by organizing and promoting the facilities where games are held, such as the Villages, a retirement community near Orlando.

While the game was being played in all 50 states by 1990, according to the USA Pickleball Association, it listed approximately 250 places to play in Central Florida.

"Without the exposure that true pickleball courts would offer, it is hard to see the kind of growth we all want," Weide said. "It is easy to attract others to the game if they see people playing and are encouraged to join in and try it out."

Students will have a chance to participate in pickleball doubles during the IM Sports Tournament Showcase on Friday, July 10 at the Recreation and Wellness Center.

"I've won all the one-day tournaments with other IM sports but, with this one, I don't care so much about winning or losing. It's just really fun to play," Monroe said.

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Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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