Why Are More And More People Playing Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that seems to have flowing under the radar for decades – it certainly hasn’t gotten the exposure that other American mainstream sports such as basketball, American Football or baseball have enjoyed. It may come as a surprise that the sport has been around for 55 years and is played on a casual or organized basis by around 4.2 million American’s. That number is growing – in 2021 a study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) showed that Pickleball had grown 21.3% from the previous year – making it America’s fastest-growing sport, with almost 21,000 courts spread across all 50 states.

So what exactly is Pickleball?

Firstly it was invented on Bainbridge Island, which is just outside Seattle. It was the brainchild of three dads who wanted to keep their kids entertained. They originally wanted to set up a game of Badmington – but could not find the shuttlecocks. The badminton net was lowered to the height of a tennis net and paddles were found – the game of Pickleball was born. Today it is played on a court 20 x 44 feet (about the same size as a regulation doubles badminton court). The ball is now of the ‘Wiffle’ type (perforated plastic) and the rules are similar to ping pong (or table tennis as it is called elsewhere in the world).

But the question remains – why has this sport demonstrated such explos8ive growth – in other words, why is Pickleball so popular?

This is the result of a number of factors.

The first is that {Pickleballl is for everyone. If you are mobile, in relatively good health, and enjoy the company of others and some light competition then Pickleball is just what the doctor ordered (almost literally – it’s a great way to enjoy some cardiovascular exercise. It is played by all age groups – if you can hold a paddle, you can play. In fact there are recent reports of a 91-year-old who is still playing Pickleball. A report by SFIA indicated that 75% of active players are 55 and older, while only 14% are less than 55 years old. This may go some way toward explaining why the sport has shown such explosive growth in recent years – it may very well be that a new generation of players are finding out just how attractive Pickleball can be as a casual pastime or in a more competitive setting.

The ISA Pickleball Association is also doing its part to ensure that the sport continues to grow. The Association has a group of Ambassadors that visit communities and recreational facilities to help an ever-growing number of people discover what Pickleball has to offer. They also help to set up and manage tournaments.

The Pickleball community is inclusive and extremely welcoming of new players – and the fact that it’s simple to set up a casual game adds to the attraction of the sport. Minimal equipment is required – and the rules are easy to learn. A court can be set up on a space usually used for Badminton (all it takes is some chalk or tape to set up the boundary markings) and it can be played by both single players and doubles teams.

There’s also the fact that many tennis players are finding out about the joys of Pickleball and taking up the sport. It’s not as intense and competitive as tennis, but there is still that great social scene to enjoy.

It seems that Pickleball has everything going for it. It’s a great way to stay healthy and meet new people and it’s easy to set up a game and learn the rules. But above all, it is simply fun -and that may be the key to its ever-growing popularity.

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