"A MAJOR CHANGE I WOULD MAKE TO PICKLEBALL
At the risk of some folks’ heads exploding, let me offer a major change to the game.
Before I specify the change, let me point out some history. On this day in 1912, football made some major changes. The sport had been around almost 50 years, but they recognized change is good and they shortened the field by 10 yards, changed a TD from 5 to 6 points and added a fourth down. Still today, the NFL makes changes to the game every year, recognizing a sport grows and adapts, or it dies. Pickleball similarly needs to grow and adapt.
When pickleball was invented, they used wooden paddles with no power, a cheap wiffle ball, and the game was started by folks with no size, power, strategy background, length, etc., particular to pickleball. They obviously had no history of growing up with the game. All that is different today, where the game is now being played by people who grew up with it, and have talents designed for the game. Because of all that, today’s game (and even more so, tomorrow’s game) is not your daddy’s pickleball.
Because of the new equipment and the new players coming into the game with a vastly better skill set, the game as initially designed 50+ years ago is unlikely to be a perfect match for today’s players. We see this effect in tennis and golf, which to an extent have been harmed by the new equipment. Tennis used to have different styles — remember the difference between Michael Chang and John Newcombe? Today, they all play the same baseline game. In golf, a great course like Merion is no longer usable for a major because of the equipment; Augusta had to lengthen the course by 1000 yards to try to keep up, but the course plays very differently from the one Arnold Palmer won at.
So that brings us back to pickleball and the change I think is needed to adapt the game to 2020, and beyond — Move the kitchen line back. I’m not sure how much, it would need experimentation, but my guess is about 4-6 inches. Why? Two main reasons.
1. Safety — the ball is hit much harder, frequently, today than even 5 years ago. No comparison to 50 years ago. Try hitting with a wooden paddle some time. People today are hit more often and eye injuries are an issue. I believe a mandatory eye protection rule should be implemented. Such a rule WILL eventually be implemented, but unfortunately it likely will only happen after a bad injury and a lawsuit. We will probably first see a half-measure where it will be a fault to hit someone shoulders on up. Moving the line back will help give people a little more reaction time and make the higher drive shot less successful, leading to a safer game.
2. A better game — a deeper kitchen line will also improve the game. It will be harder for tall players to reach so far, will encourage dinking, will reward angle shots, will encourage use of spin, and will better reward varied shotmaking.
I’d like to see some experimenting done with the idea. I brought it up the other day at the Surprise courts and to my shock, the 4-5 people I told it to all agreed with me. One person even said it should be moved back a foot! Perhaps someone could tape up a temp court, with a kitchen like back 6 inches, and see how it plays. If you do, let me know!"
Read the reaction on the Pickleball Forum facebook page.