Paddle Slammer Rebecca Bell on the Tennis vs. Pickleball Debate

Friends call me obsessed,” says Rebecca Bell, who discovered pickleball during the pandemic. After convincing her husband, Christian, to try it, the two began playing every day—sometimes twice a day if they could manage. It wasn’t long before they began exploring the possibility of owning a backyard court.

“We called around to find an installer,” she says. “They were so booked out, they wouldn’t even call us back.” So the Bells decided to create their own business building courts (backyardpicklecourts.com). And business is booming.

While some dream of private courts, many love the ‘speed-friending,’ aspect of play rotation—a mainstay of pickleball culture—on public courts. 

“It’s just so American,” Rebecca and Christian both agree. He adds that pickleball is communitarian, social and accessible to all types, ages and athletic abilities.

“Unlike tennis players, pickleball players have learned how to share,” Rebecca says, describing how rotation is in the DNA of the game. Players, she says, generally…generally, stick to the format of placing their paddles in a single line signifying who is next to play. When a team wins by reaching 11 points, all four players step out and replace their paddles in the lineup. “It’s so amazing. You can come with friends or come alone. So, you are constantly meeting and playing with new people.”

Asking strangers to rotate at a tennis court (even a public one): is unheard of. Rebecca says she’d consider trying tennis but it feels stale.

“If tennis borrowed from some pickleball culture, it might be revitalized,” she says, describing her new collection of pickleball friends from all over Salt Lake City. “When I stop and think about it, I realize this mix of people wouldn’t have normally found each other, but pickleball fosters connections and new, unexpected associations—that seems healthy for a community.”

That’s not to say there aren’t a few pickleball snobs out there, she concedes, especially as more folks advance in the game. While the majority of players on the public courts welcome her with open arms, she remembers a few women who refused to rotate her in.

“One of the ladies actually said, ‘I don’t want to play with her,’ because I was still learning,” says Rebecca. A few years and a handful of lessons later, she says she met that same woman face-to-face across the net at a tournament and gave her a drubbing.

“I’m not gonna lie,” she says. “It felt good.”


See what else tennis and pickleball players have to say about their court-side feud.

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Heather Hayes
Heather Hayeshttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
A Salt Lake native, Heather Hayes has been a voice for Utah’s arts and culture scene for well over a decade, covering music, dance and theater Salt Lake magazine. Heather loves a good yarn, no matter the genre. From seatmates on ski lifts to line-dwellers in a grocery store, no one is safe as she chats up strangers for story ideas. When she’s not badgering her teenagers to pick up their dirty socks or spending quality time with her laptop, you can find Heather worshiping the Wasatch range on her bike, skis or in a pair of running shoes.

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