The surge of “pickleball fever”
January 26, 2023
Pop…Pop…Pop…Pop…POP…the continuous sound of pickleballs bouncing off walls and clay floors…Pop…Pop…Pop…Pop…POP…pickleballs infesting courts and clubs, clicking and clacking off the floor.
Pickleball fever has been rapidly spreading throughout the country. With over 4.8 million pickleball players in the United States, the sport has surged in popularity across the States. The crowd-pleasing sport originated just outside of Seattle, on an island known as Bainbridge Island. The sport was created by three dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, in 1965. Pickleball was born from their main goal for their plan that summer: create fun activities the kids will enjoy.
Pickleball, said to be one of the fastest growing sports in the country, is such a quick and easy game that any beginner is surely adept at learning the sport.
Lauren Brown (‘23) said, “So although I do love playing pickleball, I’d have to say that my mom and dad love playing it even more than I do. They practice two-three times a week and have matches in the mornings on the weekends. I think my mom truly loves the fun and competitive aspect of the game and getting to play among people her age, whereas I think of it more as a fun thing to do on the occasion when the weather is nice!”
Like many sports, pickleball contains an array of rules and regulations needed to be followed by its players. There are five main rules in which players abide by: 1) The ball must stay inbounds, 2) There is only a maximum of 1 bounce per side, 3) The server must serve at the baseline, 4) With serves they are not allowed to land on the “no-volley” zone, 5) The game may end on a different set numerical point, varying from 11, 15 or 21 points, but the team must win by 2 points.
The court has a dimension of 20 ft. by 44 ft., with a net of 36 inches high. The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a 7 ft. area of the court where players from either side are not allowed to step inside, touch, or volley the ball inside. The centerline in the court is meant as the separation of the two service courts: the left service court and the right service court. The starting point, being a serve, must be hit underhand and as well as diagonal into the other team’s service court. When serving, neither of the teams are allowed to have their serve land in the kitchen.
Andy Bianchi, the Proven Hospitality Manager for East Lake Woodlands Country Club, discussed the surge of pickleball and the reasons for its spread, saying, “Pickleball is one of fastest growing sports in the U.S. Last year we built eight new pickleball courts. Now, we have 12 pickleball courts. The sport lends itself to a lot of aging tennis players that have transitioned to pickleball. Also it is a very social sport, because it allows people to talk across the court. The juice of it is that there are a lot of people who play this sport since it’s easy and you don’t have to be extremely athletic to play this sport. It is bringing new opportunities to generating a new membership opportunity for health clubs and country clubs. It’s extremely popular in all age brackets, but it allows seniors to transition from tennis to pickleball, where the physical requirement is less than tennis.”
Much of the sport has had an impact on country clubs, much of it being an economic impact or a social interaction impact. The impact of the “fever” hasn’t just stopped within these parameters, however. The growing spread has channeled much of its touch on colleges and universities as well. With pickleball, many more colleges and universities around the United States have been struck by the outspread of the sport as many schools have started to participate in more national tournaments for the sport. These schools include Baptist Bible College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Daytona Beach, Metropolitan State University of Denver, North Carolina State University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Though it may be thought that the sport has seized much of the attention and dedication of the senior population, it has massively grown as well in the younger population. The bulk of casual players within the sport had been under the age of 55, and there has been a boom of players under 24. The sport could be said to have attracted a variety of age groups within the population group.
Sara Klimek (’25) also commented on her aspect of the increasing popularity of the sport saying, “I think pickleball is a great sport for physical activity and social interaction. You become part of a community with other people who enjoy the same sport as you. My neighborhood is looking to put in a pickleball court so I might be trying the sport shortly!”