Pickleball has been growing to be a popular sport for a while now but it was during and after the Covid-19 pandemic that it’s popularity sky-rocketed. What we will try to answer here are the reasons for its popularity as one of the top sports in the USA and the rest of the world.
Between 2014 and 2018, pickleball grew from 2.8 million players in the USA to 3.1 million. The rise was substantial but what was to follow was somewhat unprecedented.
In the two years that followed, a whopping 1.1 million players were added to the list of those who were playing pickleball in the country. By the end of 2021, there were about 4.8 million Americans who had taken to the sport, a number that is expected to grow even more by the looks of things.
There was an article in the Town & Country Magazine which called pickleball the most preferred sport of the one percent. The one percent they are referring to is probably the who’s who of the celebrity world and there are quite a few of them who have taken to pickleball like fish to water.
We had put up a piece on the celebrities who are closely associated with pickleball in one or the other way (you can read it here), but pickleball transcends all that. In fact it’s a sport that is played across ranks.
Irrespective of the color, bank balance, age or gender, the popularity of pickleball has shot through the roof in recent times and already there are talks of pickleball leaping over some of the other more popular sports to make it to the Olympics.
For now that seems like a lofty dream but given the popularity of pickleball it might not take another lifetime for this sport to make it to the pinnacle of the sporting events.
So the question then is, what’s helped pickleball scoot up in its popularity? Why is it that in 2021, in USA alone there were nearly five million playing pickleball, which was two times the figure recorded in 2016?
More details on the reasons behind the growing popularity of pickleball can be found below.
Reasons Why Pickleball is So Popular
Multiple Health Benefits
One of the reasons why pickleball grew so much in popularity is the health benefits, both mental and physical, it provides.
About 180 calories can be burnt by a 150-pound person through just 30 minutes of pickleball, it also increases strength as a form of aerobic exercise, helps improve balance while also adding agility and flexibility to one’s body, improves mood by reducing stress, is a form of cardiovascular exercise while also improving mental health.
With pickleball having so much to offer, more and more people have realized its benefits and taken to the sport over the last few years.
Easier on the Body
Unlike a sport like tennis, pickleball is easier on the body.
While one still gets one’s dose of exercise from pickleball as mentioned in the point above, it does not cause too many issues for one’s joints. While no sport can claim to be totally free of causing injury issues, pickleball has a lesser risk of the same thereby attracting a lot of people.
Sport for All Ages
One of the biggest appeals of pickleball is the manner in which it attracts people of all ages. Whether you are a teenager looking for a competitive game or a 75-year-old wanting to help yourself with your daily dose of cardio, pickleball is second to none in transcending all age groups.
It comes across as no surprise that pickleball is a brilliant sport for senior citizens as well, with the Sports & Fitness Industry Association estimating around three-fourths of the players of this sport are 55+ years of age.
Efforts of USA Pickleball Association
USAPA, or the USA Pickleball Association is the official body in the country that promotes and grows pickleball in the USA. And it has done a sterling job of doing that.
From tying up with the APP Tour – a pickleball tour for men and women which organizes tournaments all year long – to kick-starting their own Pickleball Ambassador program, the USA Pickleball Association has been pushing pickleball’s growth agenda since 2005.
And in more recent times, their efforts seem to be finally paying off as pickleball starts to grow in popularity like no other.
Less Technical Than Tennis
Pickleball is often called a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis. And while it combines elements of all three, pickleball isn’t as technical as either of them.
Especially not tennis, which is a difficult sport to learn, let alone master.
Unlike tennis, pickleball doesn’t allow overarm serves and the smaller area of courts makes it less strenuous too on the body, thereby easing the mastering of the sport.
Strong Community Fostering
There are not too many sports which have the kind of communities that pickleball does. Clubs around the country have a very inclusive and an open-arms welcome for anyone joining in.
This leads to a strong affinity for pickleball players towards their clubs and with the sport anyway easy to follow and play, it leads to people to return to these clubs and make playing pickleball a regular habit.
Easy to Build Pickleball Courts
It’s not too difficult to make one’s own pickleball court in the backyard, but at the same time it’s equally easy for clubs to convert tennis courts into pickleball ones. US Pickleball Association have explained how that can be done here.
While the popularity of pickleball is growing at a rate faster than the number of pickleball courts which can be provided, this is more to do with the exponential rise in its following than about the ease of constructing pickleball courts.
This allows more and more players to get a taste of the game at least once and once they like what they see, they want to keep coming back for more.
Excellent Social Activity
Such is the social, fun nature of pickleball, there have been complaints from neighborhoods about the amount of noise that is typically heard from pickleball courts.
While some of it is to do with the hitting of a pickleball paddle with ball (which can be reduced by using quiet paddles), a lot of it is to also do with the amount of fun players have on the court while playing it.
That is one of the biggest reasons why pickleball has spread through the word of mouth from those playing the sport at recreational level.
It’s an Affordable Sport
For around $150 a beginner can become a regular at playing pickleball with the only regular recurring costs being that of pickleball court bookings. And even that’s quite economical given the number of tennis courts that are getting converted into pickleball ones.
Celebrities Have Taken to It Too!
One of the ways through which the popularity of a sport spreads is when it has a mass appeal. Which, as the reasons above suggest, pickleball seems to do well.
The other way is when its appeal is recognized by celebrities, which in turn leads to a solid push towards making the sport a mainstream one. As more and more celebrities have begun to play and talk about pickleball, it has led to the broadening of that mass appeal we had alluded to earlier.
What else do you expect when a sport gets talked about on a national TV show like The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Or when it’s rumored that Leonardo diCaprio schedules his shoots only after he has had his fill of pickleball.
Or when someone like Matthew Perry loves the sport despite disliking its name! Or even when tennis stars like Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi combine to promote it.
All of these celebrities – and more, as mentioned here – have played their part in spreading and popularizing pickleball.
Multiple Players Can Play it Concurrently
While most sports allow singles and doubles play, thereby allowing two or four players respectively to be a part of a game at one time, pickleball allows three players to feature on a court at the same time.
Not too many other individual sports offer this luxury.
It’s Fast Becoming a Professional Sport
While pickleball is loved by people on a recreational basis, there are those who want to take it professionally too.
Thanks to the efforts of USA Pickleball Association and the competitions, tours and leagues associated with pickleball at the moment, more and more players are taking to pickleball on a professional basis.
Even those not playing pickleball professionally can make a reasonable side income at the moment, with more to come as the sport gains even more popularity. Certified pickleball referees, for instance, have a growing demand too, thereby pushing more people towards the sport.
It is Creating Employment
Because of the various leagues and the APP tour that have come up, it’s not just the players who are benefitting from playing pickleball. The sport is also, in turn, creating employment for those on the periphery thereby getting more people interested in it.
Final Words on Pickleball’s Popularity as a Sport
With pickleball fast gaining popularity, it’s no surprise more and more people are getting fascinated by the sport and as that happens, the following has grown, proverbially speaking, exponentially. This has, in turn, given rise to more and more pickleball tournaments coming into play and some of the top players had made it to star value, thereby adding to pickleball’s appeal.