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Having a ball: A dog, a congressman, and the desire for a game for all ages leads to pickleball

Macfarlane also said the game is easy to learn. He said many of the people who play have only just started and are competitive.

"Anyone can pick it up fast and be good," he said.

Director of the Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital Darin Rafferty said pickleball is excellent for seniors because of the small court and different rules.

"The small court allows people with varying degrees of ability to play and allows for less impact on the joints because players aren't covering such a large area," he said. "Also, the game adds some fun to their life with an athletic feel to it."

Director of the Capital District Pickleballers Jim Plotnik said, "It's a game where you can't really get hurt badly. You could get hit with the ball, but it's a wiffle-ball, and it doesn't hurt that much."

In pickleball, the server must serve the ball underhand diagonally across the court, and it must clear the non-volley zone. Only one serve attempt is allowed at a time. Teams only score points when they are serving.

The receiving team must let the served ball bounce before returning it and the serving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it. This rule eliminates the serve and volley advantage and prolongs the rallies. After both teams have returned the ball on a bounce, the ball can be played either off a bounce or volleyed. Volleying cannot occur within the non-volley zone.

"From what I gather, the rules are designed to keep everyone on a level playing field," Rafferty said. "The game is not for brute force or power, but for the senior population who enjoys hitting the ball back and forth."

Pickleball was invented in 1965 in Seattle, Wash., by then-Congressman Joel Pritchard. He wanted to invent a game that his whole family could play.

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