Pickleball Population Boom
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
By: Jacob Jiang
Over the pandemic, a lot of attention on sports has focused and gathered on a sport that is a mix between table tennis, tennis, and badminton. This sport has been America's fastest-growing sport for the last few years. Right now there are more than 4.8 million people playing, almost doubling from the number only five short years ago. "It's addictive so we just started playing and now with our other friends and relatives — actually everybody we know now plays pickleball," said Freida Yueh, who joined the Meredith program, which is a pickleball community located in Meredith, New Hampshire, with her husband two years ago after they retired in the area.
It has become a positive impact for the community, with more senior citizens exercising, making healthy changes, and more adults being able to play a sport and take a break from the online working experience. "Pickleball is the only sport where my whole family — from my kids to my parents — can play together and have an absolute blast," says Dave Fleming, 54, a senior pickleball pro.
How to play: Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island (near Seattle) by three dads.
Games are played to 11 points, with a win by two if there's a tie at 10 all or more, on a surface roughly a third the size of a tennis court (20 feet x 44 feet) with Wiffle balls (balls with holes in them) and paddles. You can play doubles or singles, usually, older people prefer to play doubles.
Points are only scored by the service team, similar to volleyball. Volleying is allowed as long as it's not on the service return or the return of that return — and as long as it's not in "the kitchen," a seven-foot-deep area on each side of the net, which is usually highlighted in a different color than the rest of the court.
Bold prediction: "In a few years, I think you'll see tennis players on the cusp of the pro tour opting to pursue pickleball as a viable career," says Dave Fleming.
According to USAPickleball.org, every US state now has pickleball venues. Senior residence communities, YMCAs, local community recreation centers, schools, and parks are just some of the places likely to have pickleball courts. USA Pickleball compiles the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of places to play on a new dedicated website: places2play.org. The known places to play totaled 9,524 at the end of 2021, an increase of 789 locations or approximately 66 new locations per month.
Of the 4.8 million people playing in the U.S, around 2.8 million are ‘Casual’ players, meaning they play around 1-7 times every year. 1.4 million people are ‘Core’ players, who play more than 8 times per year. The average age of all players is 38 years old with Core players at a 47-year-old average. More than 60% of Core players are 55 or older, this means older people can play this sport with ease, instead of other sports like Basketball or Tennis, which require more movement and fitness.
Photo Credit: Fox News
According to BBC, fans say the game is addictive, partly because it's easy to play but still challenging as skills improve. "Unlike tennis or golf where you need to take lessons just to become adequate, you can get on a pickleball court and within an hour or so you won't be terrible," says Mr. Upson.
And it's sociable, a big bonus during the pandemic when people have been struggling to get together safely. As gyms and other recreation centers closed, pickleball became a popular outdoor alternative.
"Pickleball players love other pickleball players," says Barbara Gulino, 62, from New Hampshire, who admits to hunting down games in unfamiliar places, lured by the sound of a perforated plastic ball hitting the sweet spot in the center of a paddle.
"I remember one time my husband and I were in Florida, and we were walking down the street and we could hear the sound of a pickleball. We know that distinct 'pop'. And there we are looking through the hedges, pulling them apart and saying, look - pickleball people! There's a game going on!"
The largest pickleball tournament in the world is the Minto US Open Championships, it brings fans and players from all around the world for not only an exciting event but a memorable experience as well. You can watch pickleball US Open Championships gameplay at pickleballchannel.com.