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Rec center enforces adult play policy, so should kids be allowed on the court?

DALLAS, TX – Alex Hawkins, an avid pickleball player in Kansas, recently voiced a frustration on the Pickleball Facebook Forum that caused quite a debate. 

“My local recreation center is trying to say our busy night with only 12-16 maximum players, with courts not even being used, is adults only,” wrote Hawkins.

Hawkins went on to describe a situation where they were playing doubles with a kid and two other adults, and the employees of the rec center told the youngster to leave the court.

“They can ask a 15-year-old to be a lifeguard at the facility, but a 16-year-old can’t play pickleball? I feel these young adults have every right to use their membership and participate during rec play,” shared Hawkins.

This raises an important question: Should kids be allowed to play pickleball with the adults?

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The Pickleball Central Indoor USA Championships. PPA Tour

This is a growing area of concern across the country. With more and more parents making pickleball a family activity, kids are coming to the court in droves and expecting to get just as much playing time and respect as their older opponents. 

Doria Anselmo, mom of 13-year-old Jake Marusak, has run into this issue with her son before. 

“My kid is often the only kid out there at our local courts, and as a mom, I’m nervous when he’s out there playing with adults. Some people get frustrated that a kid is beating them, so then they’ll start playing really hard,” said Anselmo. 

For some players, it’s simply an ego problem. After all, it’s a running joke when people learn to play pickleball for the first time that the sweet little old lady kicked their butt. For juniors, though, it’s just the reverse. 

Common justifications for no kids on the court are:

  • Kids don’t take the game seriously
  • Kids don’t have as much skill
  • Kids are going to get hurt
  • Difference in maturity (sore winners or losers, throwing temper tantrums)
  • Censorship (some adults don’t filter their colorful language after missing a shot)

This has become such a major issue that some parents have decided to keep their kids off the community courts entirely and make friends with other families who have courts in their backyard... or simply build one themselves like the Thais family. 

“Most kids, when they walk onto a park court, all over the nation, pickleball courts are jammed. As much as people say they welcome kids, if an 11-year-old wants to go out there to learn and play pickleball with a few of their friends, they get pushed off the court pretty easily,” mentioned Ricky Thais, father of 13-year-old Rex Thais.

However, there are some bright spots for the kiddos who love the game. Anselmo found that once the adults play with her son and he proves himself a worthy opponent, they’re more than willing to share the court.

“My son is smaller than everyone else, so adults will look at him and underestimate him a little bit. They’ll hit the ball to him and he’ll whack it and show them,” said Anselmo with a laugh. “But then they’ll dink and play the slow, strategic part of the game and they’ll go, ‘Wow, this kid knows what he’s doing!’”

Sometimes, kids just have to prove that they can hang. It’s less about age and more about skill.

It’s an awfully silly argument when you look at who the leading face of pickleball is right now – 17-year-old World No. 1 Anna Leigh Waters. She's an exceptional talent and she's still so young.

When it comes to a public rec center, it’s tricky, because on one hand, rules are rules. If the rec center has this policy, you’ve just got to follow it, but when it comes to public parks, bullying a kid off the court is not the kind of positive, community-based version of pickleball we all know and love. 

Check your ego at the door and let the kids play.

What do you think? Should kids get to play pickleball with the adults? Share your thoughts with us on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). 

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