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Playing Pickleball Indoors vs. Outdoors

Outdoor vs Indoor Pickleball

As always, the seasons are changing in Canada.


We are a country of extremes with our weather. We are heading into winter and the first snowfalls have happened in many parts of the country.

We are still getting the odd day of Indian Summer, but in general, we have some snowy times ahead of us for many months.

I just saw this photo from Red Deer Pickleball Club this week. They closed their outdoor facility for the season, although this photo is from last winter.

It had me thinking that with the pickleball boom in Canada and around the world, many people that have only started playing this year, will be shifting to playing indoors for the very first time.


We are a country of extremes with our weather. We are heading into winter and the first snowfalls have happened in many parts of the country.

We are still getting the odd day of Indian Summer, but in general, we have some snowy times ahead of us for many months.

I just saw this photo from Red Deer Pickleball Club this week. They closed their outdoor facility for the season, although this photo is from last winter.

Outdoor vs Indoor Pickleball

It had me thinking that with the pickleball boom in Canada and around the world, many people that have only started playing this year, will be shifting to playing indoors for the very first time.


So we decided to take a few moments to highlight the differences between playing pickleball outside vs. at an indoor pickleball Facility.

While the essential rules remain the same, the playing environment can significantly impact the game experience.

1. Pickleball Surface sand Courts:

Indoors: Indoor courts are often made of hardwood, similar to basketball courts. This type of surface provides consistent bounce and reduces the risk of slipping when wet. However, it can be hard on joints over prolonged periods. There are also court surfaces like laminates, vinyl, or even plain old concrete such as on an arena floor.

Other indoor court surfaces are the same as outdoor, when a gritty acrylic pain is applied For courts like this, you can consider them an “outdoor” surface as for playability, and you can use outdoor balls on these.

Similarly there are now roll out court surfaces offer some cushioning but also have the gritty texture of an outdoor surface.

Outdoors: Outdoor courts are generally made of asphalt or concrete. The texture can alter the ball's bounce, and there's a higher chance of uneven spots. Furthermore, they can become slippery in wet conditions or have debris like leaves or twigs.

2. Pickleball Balls and Equipment:

Indoor Pickleball Courts: Indoor pickleball balls are softer and have larger holes. This design accommodates the consistent surface and less wind resistance. The ball travels slower, demanding a different strategy than the outdoor game.

Outdoor Pickleball Courts: Outdoor balls are harder with smaller holes. The sturdier build is to withstand the rougher texture of outdoor courts and the elements. The ball's flight is faster and can be affected by wind, necessitating quick reactions.

3. Environmental Factors:

Indoors: The controlled environment means players don't have to deal with wind, sun, or changing weather conditions. Consistent lighting and temperature can lead to longer games without the need for adjustments.

Outdoors: Playing outside introduces variables like wind speed and direction, which can drastically affect ball movement. The sun's glare or changing light conditions can impact visibility. Moreover, varying temperatures can influence both player stamina and equipment performance.

4. Pickleball Game Dynamics and Strategy:

Indoors: The predictable conditions and slower ball speed indoors often lead to longer rallies. Players might find success in a controlled, placement-focused game rather than power shots.

Outdoors: The faster ball and environmental factors can make the outdoor game more aggressive. Power shots, smashes, and quick volleys are more common. Players often have to adjust strategies on-the-fly based on wind conditions.

5. Physical Demands of Pickleball:

Indoors: The consistent conditions might mean fewer sudden moves or adjustments. However, the hard surface can be taxing on joints, especially during extended play.

Outdoors: The outdoor game can be more physically demanding due to the need to counteract the wind or adjust to the sun. The court's texture can also provide more grip, reducing the chances of slipping but potentially increasing stress on the ankles and knees.

6. Social and Sensory Experience:

Indoors: Indoor venues can amplify sounds, making the smack of the paddle and the ball more pronounced. The environment might feel more intimate, fostering camaraderie among players.

Outdoors: The outdoor setting offers a broader sensory experience. Players can enjoy fresh air, natural light, and perhaps even scenic views. The atmosphere is often more open and communal, with multiple games happening simultaneously in parks or community centers.

7. Accessibility and Availability:

Indoors: Indoor courts require infrastructure like gymnasiums, recreation centres and clubs.

While these might offer consistent scheduling and bookings, they can also come with membership fees or hourly rates.

Outdoors: Many public parks have free outdoor pickleball courts, making the game more accessible to a broader audience. However, the availability might be season-dependent in areas with harsh winters or extreme summers.

8. Footwear:
There are many types and brands of footwear that work with pickleball.
In general though, basic running shoes are not a good choice. Running shoes in general do not offer the type of lateral stability that is required in pickleball, so they can lead to ankle sprains.
Court shoes, such as tennis, and badminton shoes are better, and specific pickleball shoes are best. Court shoes and pickleball shoes quite often have different models that are built to be specific for indoor vs. outdoor. I use Tyrol Pickleball Shoes.

Conclusion:

Whether you prefer the controlled environment of indoor courts or the dynamic challenges of outdoor play, pickleball offers a unique experience tailored to each setting. Some players might even find it beneficial to practice in both environments, honing different aspects of their game. Regardless of your preference, the essence of pickleball remains the same: fun, camaraderie, and a good dose of healthy competition.

Patrick Batty
the authorPatrick Batty
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