Longboater Yoram Ariely created beckyball, a mix of tennis and pickleball, that can be played on unused tennis courts.
Last season, Yoram Ariely was playing tennis on a Sunday and noticed there were eight empty courts surrounding him.
Although season is just beginning on Longboat Key, he’s noticed that at prime time, around 10 a.m., there are empty courts.
On the other hand, he noticed that pickleball courts were slammed.
“Playing doubles, I looked around and saw all the empty courts, and I said to myself, ‘Why can’t they be used for a game similar to pickleball?’” Ariely said.
So, he thought of an idea — a new game that can be played on existing courts.
Thus, beckyball, named after Ariely’s wife, Rebecca, was born.
Ariely said beckyball has two advantages to tennis and pickleball. The first is that the game is built to be played on existing courts, so there is no requirement for new nets and lines. The second is that beckyball can be played on hard and soft courts. Ariely said that’s ideal for people like him. He avoids hard courts because of his knees.
“My approach is to just keep it as close as possible to tennis,” Ariely said. “Beckyball will be played by people who do not want to play tennis.”
But, it’s easier than tennis, according to Ariely.
“You use a paddle not a racket, so you don’t have to extend your body so much, plus you don’t run as much,” he said.
Players don’t run as much because, though the game is played on a tennis court, there is no play outside the service areas. The only adjustment to the court is the addition of a line, in the form of a removable red rope, that is placed 7 feet from the net and called the no-volley zone.
“The play area is shorter than pickleball, and of course tennis is much, much longer,” Ariely said. “But also, it’s wider, which is a rare advantage for doubles.”
Players serve diagonally from then volley. The scoring is similar to pickleball and tennis in that players want to win the game to win the set. In beckyball, players need one advantage point to win. The first team to reach five points wins the game, and there are five games in a set. One player serves the whole game.
Equipment-wise, players stick to pickleball equipment on hard courts. On soft courts, Ariely has been using a paddle and a small tennis ball, often children-sized.
Ariely has been playing beckyball since 2017. His next steps are to find associations that will adopt the game. Ariely said he has played with some tennis pros, and none of them have had bad things to say about the game.
“Beckyball is ideal for Florida and ideal for Longboat Key,” Ariely said. “Especially for Longboat Key because of the abundance of courts and the age of the population of the participants.”
On a recent Thursday, Ariely filmed a video explaining how to play beckyball. To do so, he enlisted the help of some friends so the video would show a doubles match.
It was the first time Nancy Smith and Deb Weber played beckyball. Their fourth player for the day was Duane Compton, who had played previously. All play tennis but saw the new game as a different opportunity.
“I think it has potential,” Smith said.
They also agreed it isn’t a replacement of tennis — just another option to get active.
“(It’s) not trying to take tennis away,” Weber said. “It’s an alternative.”
And that is Ariely’s goal. He’s played tennis since he was 13, but he said beckyball can give players the same feeling as an easier option.
“It would give them the same joy and exercise as pickleball,” he said.
For more information on the game, email Ariely at [email protected].
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.