such as basketball, baseball and football are known as being some of the most
exciting and popular in the world.
But could there
be another sport about to take the number one spot?
pickleballers would say so, and they would have good reason to. Pickleball
is the fastest-growing sport in the US, expanding by nearly 40%
between 2019 and 2021.
There are now around five million Americans who play pickleball on a regular basis and an average of three new pickleball venues are opening every day across the States.
The sport even
has a professional tour with teams backed by the likes of LeBron James and Tom
If you have no
idea what pickleball is then don’t worry, we have you covered. Who knows, after
reading this article you might even want to try dinking a few wiffle balls
Pickleball is a
fun sport that is a bit like a mix of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong. It was
invented decades ago, in 1965 to be exact, and has hit the mainstream in recent
We have three
men to thank for pickleball: Barney McCallum, Bill Bell,
and Joel Pritchard.
This trio came up with the game one afternoon in Washington State to
occupy their bored families.
Fast forward 57 years and pickleball now has official rules, regulations and even an international governing body, the International Federation of Pickleball.
But how is the sport even played?
Well as mentioned, the game looks, and plays, a lot like some sports
you’re probably already familiar with. Courts measure 20ft x 44ft and are split
by a net, like a tennis court.
A “no-volley zone” occupies the 7ft section of the court nearest to the
net, while the rest of the court is split by a centerline, creating both right
and left service areas.
The ball, known as a wiffle ball, is made of plastic and has holes covering one half of it. This means it travels slowly through the air no matter how hard it’s hit.
The rackets that are used look like big table tennis paddles and are
usually made from materials like aluminum and graphite.
Points are started with an underarm serve and the rest of the point is
played just like tennis; only one bounce is allowed, and the ball’s first
bounce must be within the boundaries of the court.
The winner is the first to 11 points and you must win by two. However,
points can only be won on serve, like squash.
It’s also important to say that, despite the name, pickles have
absolutely nothing to do with the sport.
Joan Pritchard came up with this name in reference to pickle boats,
rowing boats that are manned by the leftovers of all other rowing crews.
Her point being that pickleball is made from the “leftovers” of
badminton, table tennis, and tennis.
Why Is Pickleball
There are a number of reasons why pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the US.
extremely easy to learn
played or know anything about tennis, table tennis or other racket sports, then
you’ll be able to pick up pickleball in minutes.
2. Anyone can play
Thanks to the
small court, nearly every shot in pickleball is reachable, meaning that players
don’t have to exert a great deal of energy or be very mobile to play,
especially when they’re playing doubles.
Not needing to
run or change direction quickly makes pickleball a sport suitable for older
this, older people have formed a huge part of pickleball’s community; of those
who play pickleball eight times a year or more, half of them are over 55.
3. It’s good
The small court
size also means that businesses can make a lot more money by providing
three pickleball courts can fit on the same area as one regulation tennis court,
meaning more paying customers can play at any one time.
Pickleball is a
great way for people to have fun and spend time together.
The sport is
often played in doubles teams, which when combined with the small court, and
relatively easy style of play, makes for a very sociable time.
Scientific studies have shown that playing pickleball can have a huge, positive impact on mental health, especially those of an older age.
But while pickleball
has a reputation for being an “old person’s sport” many youngsters are also
being attracted to it. In fact, the sport is growing quickest in groups of
players who are aged 24 and under.
This is a trend
that only looks set to continue as professional tours such as The Professional
Tour of Pickleball, breathe more excitement – and growth – into the
Welcome To The Major
Pickleball was founded in 2021 and has quickly become the leading professional
league for the sport.
The number of
teams will expand from 12 to 16 for the 2023 season, and the number of events
has doubled from three to six.
money and pay-outs are also set to break the $2 million mark for the very
In Major League
Pickleball the teams are made up of two male athletes and two female athletes,
selected via a draft.
tournament, teams play each other in four different matches: Female doubles,
male doubles, and two mixed doubles matches.
If teams are
tied 2-2 after these matches, then a special tiebreaker game is played.
growing popularity in America has not gone unnoticed, and many savvy
entrepreneurs are looking to invest in Major League Pickleball.
NFL legend Tom Brady and NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Draymond
Green, who have all become partial buyers of an expansion team.
ex-NFL quarterback Drew Brees, and celebrity entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk who
are already owners of Major League Pickleball teams.
Not Everyone Is A Fan
It’s easy to look at pickleball as a giant success story.
After all, it’s
a sport that provides a fun way for a whole host of people to exercise, from
pensioners to children.
are many Americans who are not happy with the sport’s sudden popularity.
these are tennis players who are upset that many tennis courts are being
converted into pickleball courts in order to keep up with the high
And it’s not
just tennis courts that are being sacrificed, either.
spaces like basketball courts and even children’s parks are being taken over by
pickleballers who use masking tape and portable nets to set up mobile
pickleball in parks is not an issue by itself, the crowding it causes is, as
parks are becoming increasingly busy with pickleballers and children playing
very close to one another.
Of course, this
crowding increases the chances of accidents and injuries occurring, a fact that
has led to arguments and alterations.
It’s Exploded In Popularity And Is Set To Continue
The pickleball craze looks like it’s here to stay.
Not only is the amateur game flourishing, but the professional tour looks set to attract thousands of new fans and players in the coming years.
As the sport
becomes more common it is hoped that private businesses and local councils will
find ways to improve public pickleball facilities.
In turn, this
should reduce the pressure mobile pickle ball games are placing on public
parks. If this does happen there’s no telling how big pickleball will
Lead image: Michael & Sherry Martin/Flickr