Pickleball: America’s Fastest Growing Sport


Juliette Fang, Staff Writer

Many of us who have taken PE in middle school or high school may recall a unit on a game called pickleball. This sport blends components of badminton, tennis, and ping pong and is played using a paddle and whiffle ball. 

Created in 1965 by three bored, middle-aged men from Washington (the game was even  supposedly named after Pickles, one of their family dogs), the number of pickleball players has been rising quickly. As of 2022, the number of players has risen to 4.8 million across the country, which is nearly twice as many players than five years ago. Initially, many of these pickleball fans were over the age of 65, but the age demographic is quickly getting younger. According to a report made by USA Pickleball, the biggest age group of pickleball players at 28.8% is within 18 to 34 years of age. The second largest age group, at 21.2% of players, are between the ages of 6 and 17 years old. 

One of the reasons why pickleball is so appealing to many is because it is easier to pick up, compared to other racket sports such as tennis. It also has a slower pace than a lot of racket sports, and the scoring system is much more intuitive. Pickleball’s smaller courts mean that there’s less ground to cover during a match, and it is much more portable, as well as less expensive. 

“I like pickleball because it’s a sport that is like tennis and ping pong at the same time!” said racket sport enthusiast and freshman Flora Tan. “I love both, so when combined, it’s even more fun.”

Pickleball is also attractive because it provides a good workout. A study made by Western Colorado University found that pickleball players burn 354 calories per hour when playing, with an average heart rate of 109 beats per minute. It’s also safer than many racket sports and can improve hand-eye coordination due to the small paddle. 

However, as pickleball’s popularity continues to snowball, U.S. pickleball associations struggle to keep up with the demand for courts. Currently, the U.S. has only about 10,000 places to play, but hotel chains such as Marriott and municipalities across the country are continuing to add pickleball courts to their venues. 

Pickleball has expanded into the professional domain as well, with two professional pickleball tournaments, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP). With the number of spectators on the rise, both of these events make thousands of dollars annually. USA Pickleball is even making a push for the sport to be included in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, which would only boost pickleball’s popularity with the public. 

In addition, many brands and celebrities are attaching their names to pickleball, spreading the word even more, with pickleball events such as PPA boasting sponsors such as Chase, Hyundai, and Fila. Many celebrities also endorse pickleball, such as tennis star Serena Williams, as well as Tom Brady and LeBron James, who have both bought pickleball teams. Brady, who is now a co-owner of the Axiom Tampa Bay pickleball team, and James, who co-owns the Florida Smash team, invested in pickleball both because of their enjoyment of the sport and the economic benefits. With the support of such big celebrities and companies, pickleball now has more resources to expand. 

“At first it was hard financially to travel to tournaments,” said professional pickleball player Catherine Parenteau in an interview with ESPN, later adding “but with my sponsors and the PPA expanding, I’m able to now travel and afford a team that helps me stay on top of my game.”

Because of its ease to pick up, as well as the big names attached to it, pickleball may very likely be America’s next big sport. Combining aspects of badminton, tennis, and ping pong, pickleball is a sport that can be enjoyed by a variety of age groups across the U.S.

Photo courtesy of PIXNIO.COM