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Alternatives to Tennis: Popular Paddle Sports for Fun and Fitness


Tennis is a popular sport, a unique feature being the need of a racquet. Tennis is widespread, yet other activities are strangely similar, requiring a racquet or paddle but differing in rules. It’s ironic that tennis-playing adults and kids seek additional pastimes when a range of popular paddle sports are at their fingertips – table tennis, pickleball and badminton, to name a few.

Table Tennis

Table tennis, or ping pong, was played in Victorian England and made its way to America. The velocity of the ball and short distance of the table necessitates agile play. Skilled players practice backhand and forehand vollies and serves, as well as a number of “trick” shots to defeat opponents. Players put top, side and cork spins on the ball. A special paddle made of pieces of compacted wood adopts a thin oval shape. Paddles feature a rubber or wood surface. Exceptional players have intense concentration and lightning quick reflexes.


Badminton features singles and doubles games. A racquet, smaller than a tennis model, is used to volley a shuttlecock. At its most competitive level, like ping pong, badminton becomes a game of deception. The close quarters of play makes every second crucial; a reaction in the wrong direction can cost a point. Seasoned badminton players are great at keeping opponents on their toes. An added attraction, the game is easy enough to play with younger people, easily becoming a shared family hobby.


It is believed that modern racquetball was created in Connecticut around the year 1950. Indoor and outdoor play features a small rubber ball and rounded racquets. The game moves fast and takes time to master, but ultimately, strategy involves a player’s ability to control the center of the court, just over the serving line. That way, one is in the best position to fetch the ball while forcing opponents to chase a long or short ball. Through experience, a player gains an understanding of where the ball will go based on how it hits a surface.


Pickleball is quickly gaining popularity with older hobbyists. The low-impact nature of the sport attracts those who want to be active but don’t want to commit to strenuous activity. Pickleball is a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton. The net height is 36 inches, and pickleball areas may be custom or constructed from existing badminton or tennis courts. Paddles, sold on location and online at Wolfe Sports, are smaller than tennis racquets yet larger than ping pong paddles. The pickleball has holes like a whiffle ball.


Squash is similar to racquetball; the racquets look similar yet the ball reacts differently. The ‘dead’ ball has little bounce and is difficult to hit. A livelier ball is easier to strike and reserved for beginners. Deliberate obstruction of opponents is forbidden. It’s to each player’s advantage to make it back to the center of the court. The omni use of the entire four-wall playing court is a mentionable feature. An in-play ball may strike the front, side or back walls as long as it hits below the out line. The winner of a rally always receives a point regardless of whether they served.


Cricket is a unique mixture of baseball and tennis. Batters score runs and the eleven fielders try to stop them. A batter must hit the ball so hard that it exceeds the playing boundaries, or well enough so they can round the bases before fielders retrieve the ball and put down the wicket. Despite its obscurity in the United States, cricket is popular in many parts of the world, including India and Australia.

Beach Paddle Ball

The rules of beach paddle ball are loose. Players reside at close quarters and keep the ball in the air. The objective is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. In other variations, players may keep score depending on the ability to return the ball within a set boundary. The ball does not have a lot of bounce, so it’s easy to mislead opponents with paddle speed.

Repetition and Strategy

Each paddle sport requires certain skills yet a number of similarities remain. Experts agree that repetition makes a difference between an amateur and elite player. Furthermore, at an advanced level, strategy is implemented more than a reliance that an opponent will make a common error. For example, an opponent may hit to one’s backhand, noticing a weakness. It’s suggested to find a friend or family member that shares your newfound hobby or consider joining clubs and organizations that promote competitive and amateur play.

Wolfe Sports was created by two brothers. “Wolfe” is their mother’s maiden name. Mike and Brian love pickleball and enjoy sharing their thoughts and ideas with an online audience.