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A Look Inside Pickleball's Explosive Growth

Are you athletic and passionate about playing sports? If you are looking for a good and healthy way to spend your free time, you can play pickleball! Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, with millions of enthusiastic trainers, coaches, and players. Curious about the games and its booming popularity? Read on to learn more.

Fast Facts on Pickleball

A Look Inside Pickleball's Explosive Growth
  1. Pickleball was created in Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965.
  2. Invention credits go to three fathers Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.
  3. The sports namesake is linked to Pickles the Cocker Spaniel, owned by Pritchard, because the dog kept chasing the ball while the owners were playing.
  4. The rules of the game are a mix of table tennis, badminton, and tennis regulations.
  5. The sport has a governing body, USAPA or United States of America Pickleball Association.
  6. For players around the world, the International Federation of Pickleball helps regulate the sport in countries like Canada, France, Great Britain, and Spain.
  7. Pickleball is now included in the curriculum of many grade schools and junior high schools.
  8. Pickleball can be played as both singles and doubles sport.
  9. This can also be considered as an adaptive sport, meaning you can play it on wheelchairs.
  10. The first annual US Open championship started in 2016, while the first world tournament was held in 1976 in Washington.

Who is Interested in Playing Pickleball?

A Look Inside Pickleball's Explosive Growth

If there’s one great thing about the sport, it’s that it can be played by anyone from a wide age range. It’s a non-contact sport that does not require extreme physical skills because the ground to cover is not much.

Pickleball is recommended as an excellent option if you are older or not in great shape and still looking to be active. But, that does not mean that the sport is only for the elderly, even the youth can still enjoy this sport. Pickleball is versatile in the way that it can be casually played on a lazy afternoon, or be intensely hard-fought like a competition.

Pickleball by the Numbers

A Look Inside Pickleball's Explosive Growth

a. Searches over TimeNon-Volley Zone

From this data supplied by Google Trends, this set of data shows interest in the sport via the number of people searching the term on Google. 100 means peak popularity, while 50 means half popular, and 0 means not enough data.

This information is measured for interest in pickleball in the United States based on searches using Google.

PERIOD SEARCH VALUE

January 2010 8

February 2011 10

February 2012 15

February 2013 17

March 2014 34

March 2015 35

May 2016 45

March 2017 54

March 2018 70

July 2018 82

June 2019 100

This information is measured for interest in pickleball in the United States based on video searches using Youtube.

PERIOD SEARCH VALUE

January 2010 7

April 2011 7

February 2012 16

January 2013 12

April 2014 25

January 2015 37

July 2016 56

February 2017 87

May 2017 91

June 2019 100

The top 10 queries on Google related to pickleball are:

  1. Pickleball court
  2. Pickleball paddle
  3. Pickleball tournaments
  4. What is pickleball?
  5. Pickleball tournament
  6. Pickleball courts
  7. Pickleball near me
  8. Pickleball central
  9. Youtube pickleball
  10. Pickleball video

b. Interest based on State

According to Google Trends, these are the top 10 states where Pickleball is a significant search term:

  1. Utah – 100
  2. Arizona – 92
  3. Delaware – 54
  4. Maine – 51
  5. Florida – 49
  6. Idaho – 48
  7. Minnesota – 44
  8. Montana – 43
  9. Colorado – 43
  10. Kansas – 41

c. SFIA Repo

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) published a Pickleball Participant Report that produced the following information on the sport and its players. There are now 3.1 million players in the United States last 2018, which is a 12 percent increase compared to 2017. Here are more details explained in the 2016 report:

  1. In 2016, 1.57 million declared that they are casual players who play at least one to seven times a year.
  2. Around 930,000 are core players that play at least eight times within a year.
  3. In terms of gender, casual players are 63% male and 27% female.
  4. For core players, 73% are male, and 27% female.
  5. In playing more actively:

0.8% are aged 6 to 17,

5.5% are aged 18 to 34,

19.2% are aged 35 to 54,

31.8% are aged 55 to 64,

and 42.7% are aged above 64.

6. For casual playing, the numbers are a little different:

ages 6 to 17 are 18.5%,

ages 18 to 34 are 11.7%,

ages 35 to 54 are 29.4%,

ages 55 to 64 are 7.7%,

and ages 64 and up are at 5.4%.

USAPA and Their Role in the Sport’s Growth

A Look Inside Pickleball's Explosive Growth

The USA Pickleball Association was formed in 2005 to promote the sport across the country. Envisioning a bright future for the game, the organization regulates and maintains the official rules, sanctions, and tournaments for the uniform approach in playing. They also provide professional player rankings and also host the annual USA National Pickleball Championships Tournament. The association is composed of an executive director, board of directors, ambassador corps, and the organization members. All of these positions are voluntarily held and requires payment of dues.

As part of their mission, the USAPA has a network of around 1,800 ambassadors who have committed to show support and promote the playing of pickleball in their local areas. They serve as representatives for any activities related to pickleball and monitor if all games and tournaments abide by official pickleball rules.

The USAPA has a Community Grant Program and a High School Grant Program that proves their commitment to sharing the sport. They reimburse $250 for communities and $350 for schools for purchasing pickleball equipment for pickleball player training programs, physical education classes, and after-school programs. As of January 2019, the USAPA has helped 131 communities and 22 high schools with a total allocation of $40,000.

Reasons Why Pickleball is Gaining Popularity

Here are some reasons why pickleball is massively exploding in the United States, and why you should take the chance to play.

  1. People are migrating from tennis to pickleball. – Since pickleball is less intense than tennis and is played on smaller courts, more and more people are attracted to switch sports. It is relatively easy to pick up in terms of rules, and the service is less technical compared to tennis.
  2. People enjoy an inclusive and open community. – Pickleball is gaining fame because of how they welcome new members. While they are competitive matches, there is a large number of local clubs that have a very casual atmosphere that is perfect for beginners. 
  3. Pickleball does not really require too much equipment. – You only need paddles, a ball, and you can make do with a makeshift court or a portable pickleball net like the founders of the sport used to do.
  4. Pickleball is a very social activity. – It allows people to meet others and expand their network. Because playing it is so fun, you will see yourself laughing and relieving stress.
  5. It is effortless to set up playing locations. – In fact, due to public demand, many parks and recreation areas are converting their tennis courts for pickleball use. It can be played both indoors and outdoors, so it is an attractive option.
  6. There are several health benefits that you can get from playing this sport. – This is a significant reason why the aging population chooses this sport: to remain active and healthy. In basic terms, you can already see that pickleball can give you opportunities to exercise your body and mind.
  7. The sport is open for everyone. – Pickleball is one of the few athletic activities where you can see teenagers, pregnant women, parents, and grandparents enjoying the same sport. Pickleball is very family-friendly and can be an exciting way for families to spend time and bond together.

Top Pickleball Communities in the US

As the popularity of pickleball increases, so do the places where you can play get more available. According to USAPA, there are 6,885 places to play in their database. Here are some great communities where you can play pickleball.

  1. The Villages in Central Florida – Known as the Mecca of pickleball, this is the largest adult community in the world and has top-notch pickleball facilities that you can enjoy. There are around 100 courts that you can play on, and they have a very active club that hosts tournaments all year round.
  2. Solivita in Kissimmee, Florida – Home of the 1,000-player team, “Smashers,” this community has an extensive resource of pickleball courts where 17 are outdoors, and many are lighted for playing at night.
  3. PebbleCreek in Goodyear, Arizona – In this community, there is a long list of recreational activities you can enjoy. The residents have eight pickleball courts for a fun game with friends. Their pickleball club creates events for all skill levels throughout the year and tournaments for those with competitive spirits.
  4. Sun City Anthem in Henderson, Nevada – Pickleball enthusiasts will enjoy the Liberty Center, the community’s newest amenity complex. They have eleven pickleball courts and a home team that organizes many social events.
  5. Anthem Ranch in Broomfield, Colorado – This welcoming community is perfect for adults looking to keep fit, active and social. Their recreational center called Aspen Lodge has four pickleball courts where they can spend their time playing as much as they desire.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that pickleball won’t stop gaining more popularity in the years to come. With a diverse player pool and an increasing number of passionate supporters, many expect that the sport will continue reaping success. Don’t miss the chance of learning and trying out this sport. Grab a paddle and play pickleball now!



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One of the fastest blooming sports in the United States, Pickleball, is combined with elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. It is a paddlesport where two or four players use solid paddles usually made of wood and a lightweight plastic ball. It’s played on a court similar to that of a badminton court with a modified tennis-style net.

The rules of this game are easy and are quick for beginners to learn. It is created for all ages and skill levels. However, it can develop into a fast-paced competitive game for experienced players, despite it being quick to learn.

Basic Overview

  • Just like a badminton court, the Pickleball court size is 20’ x 44.’
  • Serving is started with the right-hand service square with the ball served diagonally. The side that serves is where points can only be scored.
  • The ball must bounce once before volleys are allowed.
  • To prevent “spiking,” there is a seven-foot no-volley zone on each side of the net.
  • Like badminton, the server continues to serve at alternating service courts until he/she faults.
  • The first side with a leading of 2 points that reaches 11 points, wins.

The Pickleball Serve

With both feet behind the back line, the server must do an underhand to serve with the paddle below the waist or at the navel. The player’s feet must not come in contact with the court until after the ball is struck. After proper positioning, you should keep in mind the following do’s and don’t’s during serving:

  • DO’s
    • The serve must clear the seven-foot non-volley zone in front of the net and land in the diagonal service court.
    • The serve must be done diagonally and must land in the diagonally opposite service court – the area between the non-volley zone and the back line.
    • The service will be given to the opposite side when the serving side creates a fault on the service. Until then, the serving side will continue to serve at alternating service courts.
    • Only one fault is allowed for the first serving team at the start of each new game.
    • On a doubles game, only one partner on the serving team at the beginning of the game has the opportunity to serve before faulting. The service then passes to the receiving team after the fault.
    • Both members of the team, during doubles, will get to serve and fault before the ball is turned over to the opposing team.
    • If the serving team scores the first point, the player who served switches sides and begins the next serve in the left-hand court. The player switches again to the right-hand court after another score.
  • DON’T’s
    • The ball should not bounce while being hit onto the air.
    • The server is not allowed to hit the ball off on the first bounce. He/she is also not allowed to bounce the ball and must hit it in the air when serving.
    • Do not serve at the non-volley zone. Otherwise it is considered out.
    • The player is not allowed to serve if he/she is not at the right-hand court at the start of the game.
    • The player can only serve once, except on the events of a let – the ball touches the net during service and fall in the proper service court. Let serves are an exception, allowing the player to serve again.

Volleys

Volleys mean hitting the ball in the air without letting it bounce or touch the ground. A player’s feet must be behind the non-volley zone line to do a volley. If the player steps over the non-volley zone line during his/her volley follow-through, it is considered a fault.

Non-Volley Zone

Also commonly known as “The Kitchen,” it is the seven feet court area on both sides of the net. The non-volley zone prevents players from doing a smash or a volley when standing in this zone.  When a player’s foot or any part of his clothes crosses the line to the non-volley zone while doing a volley, it is immediately considered a fault. A player is only allowed in the non-volley zone if, and only if, he or she is doing anything aside from volleying.

Double-Bounce Rule

Another name for this rule is the “Two Bounce Rule.” Teams have to play their first shot off of the bounce. Before playing it, the receiving team must first let the serve ball bounce, and the serving team also allowing the return of the serve bounce. Thus making two bounces. Once these bounces have been applied, the ball can finally be volleyed or played off the bounce.

Fault


A fault happens when a rule is violated, thus pausing the game. Faults by the receiving team lead to points for the serving team. Faults only happen when:

  • The ball is hit out of bounds.
  • The ball does not clear the net.
  • The ball falls into the non-volley zone.
  • The player makes a volley in the non-volley zone.
  • The ball bounces twice before getting hit by the receiver.
  • The ball hits the player anything the player is wearing.
  • The server serves before the referee’s signal.
  • A fault happens when a rule is violated, thus pausing the game.
  • Faults by the receiving team lead to points for the serving team.

Scoring

A team scores a point only during serving. The serving team continues to serve until a fault is made by his/her teammate. A “Side Out” occurs when the serve moves to the opposing team after the first serving team creates a fault during serving continually. When the score is even, the serving team’s server stays at the right-side court during serving and receiving, and at the left-side court when the score is odd. The game is won when a team is ahead by two points and reaches eleven points. Tournament games may be until fifteen or twenty-one and are still won by two points.

Strategies

  • Forehand Groundstroke

One of the most comfortable and familiar strokes for players between the baseline and mid-court. The player immediately hits the ball after it bounces. This shot is made from the player’s most active side and is mastered with necessary skills.

  • Overhead Smash

The most aggressive technique in pickleball, smashing requires hitting a high ball downward using the leverage of a fully extended arm. Experts have mentioned that your non-paddle arm should be pointing at the ball, while your arm with the paddle should come high above your head to prepare for that striking shot.

  • Approach Non-volley Line to Hit Volleys

Although this might be risky for faults, the volley is best used at the non-volley line where it becomes an invaluable weapon. Your knees should be shoulder width apart with your paddle ready and facing the net.

  • Dinking

A dink is a short drop shot that comes from the non-volley line and drops into the non-volley zone. Bend at the knees and not at the waist to prepare yourself to catch the ball.  Since most players opt for an aggressive and powerful strategy, using a gentler technique will catch them off guard neutralizing their strategy.

  • Placing Serves Deep Into the Court

Professionals have a particular term when it comes to serving – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Otherwise known as KISS. Plenty of players have lost all because of their flair for the dramatic. Always try not to hit the ball out, but place it deep in the court. This may need practice since the power required is difficult to control.

Final Thoughts

Not only is Pickleball an exciting game to play, but it’s also a great form of exercise for all-around fitness. It focuses on major muscle groups and also improves mobility, dexterity, agility, and balance.

Knowing the basic rules and regulations of the game is the key to growing and developing into a better player. Winning strategies are there to help you guide your way in becoming a Pickleball champion. By knowing the basics, you can use the mentioned strategies, mix it up with others you might learn, and you’ll soon be sailing through tournaments as a titleholder.


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The History of Pickleball

Pickleball had been rising quickly in popularity. Incorporating fun elements from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, it is a highly addictive game that is perfect for everyone, no matter what age or skill level. Rules and regulations are pretty basic, and the gameplay enables players to be a lot more engaged compared to other sports.

It’s a healthy social and physical activity you can spend with your family or friends. But, before you do so, it is best to know first how this sports craze came to life. Despite its popularity, few know the origin of Pickleball. Not to worry, we’ll tackle the history of Pickleball, and so you have something to share with your colleagues the next time you play around.

Who Created Pickleball and How It All Started

The History of Pickleball

One Saturday morning on Bainbridge Island in Washington, during the hot summer of 1965, Washington State Congressman, Joel Pritchard, and his businessman friend, Bill Bell returned home after playing golf.

Bemused by the inactivity of their kids on that fantastic summer day, they went out to find something that would make their families entertained and active throughout the season. They aimed to create a game that would be challenging for kids, but still highly accessible.

There they have found some ping-pong paddles and a plastic Whiffle ball and began passing the ball back and forth across the adjusted badminton net. As the days went by, both toddlers and adults, fell in love with the game. Pritchard and Bell’s friend Barney Callum soon came to play, and the three started establishing some rules and regulation, with the primary intention of making it easy and fun enough for everyone to play. The more games played, the more the game evolved up to its current state today.

How Pickleball Got Its Name

The History of Pickleball

Pickleball has an unusual name, especially that we are not tossing any pickles here. If you ever wondered how this sport got its quirky name, there are two theories about its origin.

It Was Named After The Family Dog

Some people believed that the sport was named after Pritchard’s lovely dog, Pickles. Whenever the ball would pass by the household dog’s direction, Pickle’s would run off with the ball thus, getting the name “Pickle’s ball.” Other believed that Pritchard named his dog, Pickles, because it was fun and creative, like the game.

The Name Has Maritime Roots

In an interview with Joan, Pritchard’s wife, she said that the sports’ name had maritime origins. She noted that the name came up due to the combination of different elements from different sports that brought back memories of the Pickle Boat crew, whose oarsmen were chosen from the “leftover” of other main boats.

How Pickleball Evolved

Now, that we know that the intelligent minds of few dads invented the sport on one hot summer afternoon in 1965, it’s time to how did the game evolve to one that is so famous today.

Dubbed as the fastest growing sport in the United States, the initial measurement of 100,000 players were made in 2010. In 5 years, the number of players skyrocketed to 2,500,000 in 2015.

Let’s take a look at how the sport transformed massively since the first day it was brought to existence:

1967

Pritchard’s neighbor Bob O’ Brian, construct the first permanent pickleball court at Joel and Joan Pritchard’s home in Magnolia Bluff, Seattle. It was the first official court in Pickleball history explicitly built for the sport and not badminton or any temporary court they used to play in. In the same year, Pritchard presented to Washington Governor Dan Evans and Slade Gorton of Olympia. The latter ended up building his own court in his backyard, too.

1972 to ‘76

In 1972, a  corporation was created ‒Pickle-Ball Inc. ‒to protect the creation of this new and growing sport and its name. With the establishment of the corporation, the young game has not only gained backing but also earned recognition.

In 1975, the National Observer released the first ever article about Pickleball. This article is one of the first and most significant journals about the sport, which helped increase awareness of the game and brought it further into public attention.

This was followed by another article from the Tennis Magazine in 1976 and dubbed the game as “America’s newest racquet sport.” This propelled the game from a typical family game to a nationally-recognized racquet sport.

Also in 1976, the first-ever tournament for the sport took place at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. In this event, David Lester became the first pickleball champion in the Singles division followed by Steve Paranto who placed second. Pickleball has become the freshest competitive sport then.

Majority of the participants were college tennis players who have little knowledge or minimal knowledge about Pickleball. Since pickleball equipment was not abundant yet then, most of the players used wooden paddles and a whiffle ball the size of a softball for practice.

1984

In 1984, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established with the responsibility of sustaining the growth of the sport in the whole country. The first pickleball rulebook was drafted and printed shortly after. This was published to make sure that Pickleball would remain as originally intended when it was invented: a sport for the whole family to adore and play.

That same year in Pickleball’s rich history, the first paddles made of  Nomex honeycomb panels and fiberglass were created and distributed. The game which has been far played using ping-pong paddles had its first standard for pickleball paddle materials. This advancement initiated later progress on other pickleball equipment.

1990 – Present

In 1990, Pickleball had reached and is now being played in all 50 states in the country. This displayed a huge amount of growth the sport has gained in such a small amount of time.

In 1997, Joel Pritchard, the creator of Pickleball, passed away at age 72. While he served as Washington State’s Lieutenant governor for quite a while, he is probably more famous for his connection to the birth of the sport.

In the early 2000s, the majority of tournaments were held further solidifying the sport. The first Thousand Trails tournament was conducted at Pio Pico RV Resort, CA in 2000. Two years after, the first National Championship Tournament was held at The Villages, FL. Significantly, a year after, Pickleball was included for the first time in the annual Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, UT.

In 2008, the official rulebook got a few revisions for the improvement of the sport. In the same year, 420 “Places to Play in North America” was published on the USAPA website. This included 43 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and around 1,500 individual courts (not including numerous courts at private homes.)

In 2015, Pickleball was 50 years since it was invented – the first notable time marking since the game was brought to existence.

Today and the Future

The History of Pickleball

Pickleball has come a long way since it was created. Now, it is a sport that brags international praises and a million number of fans. In the U.S, Canada, and Spain, it has become a staple game in sports clubs, recreation centers, and schools. Community Education programs included Pickleball on their Physical Education course. The sport is also now a well-loved activity in most retirement communities.

The sport of Pickleball is never ceasing in terms of growing popularity. The number of places where you can play the game skyrocketed since 2010. As of the moment, there are now around 4,000 locations on the USAPA’s Places to Play map. Pickleball continues to spread worldwide and bringing life to many new international clubs and national governing bodies now being established in India and Canada.

With the rising number of pickleball courts, as well as, leagues, tournaments, and sports organizations, we can expect the sport to continue evolving for the better and see more and more people get bitten by Pickleball bug.