Pickleball Takeover

From playgrounds to country clubs, pickleball, the sister sport of tennis, is growing in popularity across the United States. Although older generations favor it, it’s a great sport for anyone to pursue. Tennis fans, however, may think differently. 

Popping up in Bainbridge, Washington, pickleball was created in 1965 by Washington state representative Joel Pritchard. The game is played with paddles that have a flat surface and hollow, Wiffle-like ball on a court that is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. Originally it was created for the whole family to play together. According to USA Pickleball, by the 1980s tournaments were being organized in Washington state. A few years later, the sport was being played in all 50 states. Just a few years ago, in 2021, USA Pickleball reached 50,000 members. Additionally, they had 2,300 players for the 2021 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championship, making it the largest tournament in the world. 

Pickleball court (blue) compared to a tennis court (green). Photo provided by PickleballMax.

Even though pickleball was created for the family and every age can play it. The people who play it the most are the older generations. According to Morning Brew, “… the demographic skews [towards] white, wealthy, and middle-aged (if you play more than eight times a year)…”. Which is reasonable because entrepreneurs are starting to monetize the game, since the Morning Brew states that there are already plans to build 15 private pickleball courts at country clubs across Florida. Those plans have an approximate cost of about 180 million dollars. Along with building the courts, many are trying to add drinks, karaoke, and other fun activities to venues to bring in more profit. However, once these places become popular, they may make some tennis enthusiasts concerned. 

Pickleball courts being used on Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo provided by US Sports Camp.

Since pickleball is gaining popularity and followers, tennis is still on top for now, but some tennis players are concerned about their sport, and what the courts and companies will do.  Since this year the tennis community lost two Grand-Slam winners, Serena Williams and Roger Federer. According to Morning Brew, Roger Federer said he would never play pickleball, when asked after his final match. He and many other players are and will continue to be loyal to tennis. 

Additionally, according to the United States Tennis Association (USTA), 22.6 million people play tennis. Which is a significantly greater amount than the 4.8 million pickleball players. So, it will be a while until pickleball officially tops tennis in the sport world. However, hopefully both sports can be on top at the same time. 

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