Everyone Is in a ‘Pickle’-Pickleball Is the Sport of 2023

Move over tennis; Pickleball is the go-to sport in warm weather climates. The number of players has increased by over thirty percent in the last year alone. Over eight million people play the sport. In its 2023 Topline Participation Report, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) named Pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year. This was a sport that people used to think of as something for old people but not anymore. Everyone seems to be saying that this sport is addictive and that when it’s played competitively, it’s a great workout. Delray Beach, Florida, just had its third annual pickleball tournament. 

Pickleball is here to stay. Everyone seems to love it. It’s like tennis and badminton, with less running around.

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Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It’s played with a paddle on a mini-tennis court. Many older people have taken up this sport because there’s less running and injury than in tennis. It was supposedly easier for older people to play, but it’s quickly become a sport everyone enjoys. Check out Pickleball Championship Tournament 2023

USApickleball.org describes the history of the game;

After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA (near Seattle) to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court, so Pritchard and Bell looked for some equipment and could not find a complete set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first, they placed the net at a badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface, and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.

By 1990, Pickleball was being played in all fifty states. 

Pickleball is easy to learn. It can be an easy, social sport or competitive. The number of players has increased by thirty percent in the last year alone.

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Former Delray Beach Mayor Jeff Perlman has lived in Florida for decades, and he’s seen trends come and go. Florida Jolt asked him how the sport would affect life and tourism in Florida. He had this to say;

I think pickleball has had a profound impact all across the country, especially in Florida, because the sport appeals to a large demographic here and coming—the 55-plus crowd.

Typical pickleball players were thought of as older people who wanted to stay active. Many were former tennis players. Younger people say not anymore. It is now a sport for all age groups.

We all know tennis players who have given up the sport and taken up pickleball because it is easier to play as you age and easy to learn.

Economically, communities, cities, and counties will begin to convert tennis courts to pickleball courts to meet the need because pickleball courts use a smaller footprint, and land is valuable.

Some cities are converting their tennis clubs to multi-racquet facilities where people can play tennis, pickleball, and even Padel and mini-tennis. Padel is growing rapidly in Europe and will make the leap to the States.

We’ll see clubs hire pros who can teach three or four racquet sports to people who want to learn.

I think Delray and Florida have a big opportunity to drive tourists here because of the weather and the sheer amount of tennis facilities that can accommodate other racquet sports.

Delray has some parks that could be re-purposed with a little imagination, and the tennis center is an ideal place to host events, exhibitions, and tournaments. That means heads in beds and economic impact.

But in Delray, the caveat is always whether politics get in the way.~Former Delray Beach Mayor Jeff Perlman

Ironically, the sport that was supposed to be great for older people has caused injuries since it’s become so competitive. One man in his thirties mentioned that his opponent hit the ball so hard that he got hit in the eye. Many have gotten shoulder injuries due to overuse from the repetitive motion of the sport. It’s no different than tennis in that respect. State Representative Melony Bell plays the sport and loves it, but a shoulder injury due to overuse playing the sport has prevented her from playing for the time being. 

Pickleball can be quite a workout. It’s perfect for a healthy lifestyle. People belong to pickleball associations and play in tournaments.

My stepson, John Paul, is the one who piqued my interest in the sport. He’s a former college quarterback. He’s extremely active. He mentioned that one of his brothers tried it, and he was still going four hours later. JP and his friends now play this sport regularly. I have yet to try “pickle,” as my stepson fondly refers to the sport, but I look forward to trying it and seeing what the fuss is about. 

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