It was fun while it lasted.
And even after — because as the lights came on, the pickleball players were still enjoying themselves.
They had gathered to play Cosmic Pickleball — a fun, new twist to the incredibly popular sport. In this version, players were encouraged to wear neon colors and then played with neon balls under black lights, with laser light displays and music amping up the atmosphere.
The three-hour event, at Wesley Chapel Recreation Complex on Jan. 14, was a new take on a sport that’s taken the recreation world by storm.
After about an hour of playing in the dark, many players asked to switch back to normal lighting.
Even so, event organizers were pleased with the turnout and the different spin on pickleball.
“Well, now we just have a dance party, huh?” joked Shannon Saracena, the Pasco County recreation specialist that organized the event. “It’s kind of sad we had to turn the lights on, but it was a good turnout and everyone still played, so that’s all that matters.
“We’re just glad everyone had a good time.”
Saracena said they got the idea for Cosmic Pickleball from a regular pickleball player that played in a similar event in North Carolina. That one, however, was outdoors and only featured three courts.
Cosmic Pickleball at the complex in Wesley Chapel was indoors, allowing for the black lights and laser displays, as well as featuring six courts in the gym.
“We also encouraged everyone to wear bright or neon colors,” Saracena said. “And some people didn’t disappoint, as those were some bright pickleball outfits (laughs).”
To aid match play, neon balls were used, as they would light up under the black lights. Additionally, some balls had glow sticks inserted inside the middle, or even had some glowing material from inside the glow sticks painted on the balls.
Players were given glow sticks to wear, as well.
Moving forward, Saracena says they will host another Cosmic Pickleball event, but this time for youth players. They figure kids might play the whole event in the “dark,” as the one kid who was there — 12-year-old Rey Gonzalez Jr., who played with his dad, Rey Sr. — was disappointed when the lights came on.
“Oh, yeah, we think the youth will really like Cosmic Pickleball,” Saracena added. “So, we’re looking forward to having that event and keeping it cosmic the whole time.”
How to play Pickleball
Pickleball is played on a court that is 44 feet by 20 feet, with a net that’s 36 inches tall. The game features a non-volley zone often referred to as “The Kitchen.” It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes (similar to a wiffle ball).
The game starts with the “Two Bounce Rule,” meaning the serving team serves cross-court to the returning team and the ball must land past the kitchen in the box diagonal from the server to be a valid serve. Any serve that lands in the kitchen or on the kitchen line is a fault.
The returning team returns the ball off of a bounce (bounce 1) and now the serving team also has to let the ball bounce before hitting it (bounce 2). From there, play is open, meaning everyone is now allowed to hit balls out of the air.
Balls can only be hit out of the air when standing outside the kitchen. If a player hits the ball out of the air while in the kitchen or standing on the kitchen line, a point is lost. If the ball bounces inside of the kitchen, a player can move into the kitchen to hit the ball off of a bounce, but the players must reset their positioning and get out of the kitchen before hitting the ball out of the air.
Scoring is called out in a three-number sequence: the server’s score, the returner’s score and whether server 1 or 2 is serving. For example, if the server calls out a score of 2-1-1, that means their team has two points, the returning team has one point, and they are the first server.
Only the serving team can score points. A side out is when the service switches teams. Matches are best two out of three games format, and games are played to 11 points, win by two.
Published January 18, 2023