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story.lead_photo.caption Kurt Dudenhoeffer

The term “lifetime sport” is often used to describe sports like swimming or golf because they can be played by people of any age. When it comes to exercise and fun, what could be better than a lifetime sport?

I’m going to propose a new term for a sport that is better because it is not only lifetime, but it is inclusive of people of all stripes, all skill levels, is socially binding and addictively fun. This new term is “universal,” and its accompanying sport is pickleball.

Pickleball is actually not a new sport at all. It was invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington. It is often described as a cross between tennis and pingpong, but in reality, it is a game all its own.

It is most often played in a doubles format on a court that is smaller than a tennis court. The court dimensions make it physically accessible and easy to learn. It is also relatively inexpensive, with the only necessary equipment being a paddle, a wiffle-like ball and net.

There is a whole strategy and language specific to pickleball including “dinking” and “third shot drops.” It is mentally stimulating and physically challenging enough to serve as a good workout.

I believe pickleball’s inherent universality is the reason it’s exploding in popularity around the world. It is steadily gaining recognition and credibility as participation expands exponentially across the country and huge tournament events, like the U.S. Open, attract professional players.

According to the United States of America Pickleball Association, 3.1 million people in the United States play pickleball. This is a 650 percent increase over the past six years. It started to expand in retirement communities and campgrounds, but now, cities and private entrepreneurs are developing courts.

Everyone from racquetball players to golfers to people with no athletic background have found affection for this sport.

Whether you are looking for a new hobby, new family activity, new social club or a new competitive sport, pickleball offers something for everyone. The Jefferson City Pickleball Club prides itself on being welcoming to new players.

When you are ready to try a truly “universal” sport, you are invited to learn and play with us during one of our open play nights. Find our schedule on our Facebook page or contact us at

Kurt Dudenhoeffer works for StormPro and is the field coordinator for the Safer Homes Collaborative. Kurt is the president of the Jefferson City Pickleball Club, which began as an effort to advocate for wider support of the sport locally. When Kurt is not playing pickleball, he’s enjoying life with his wife, five daughters and three grandchildren.