It May Be the Fastest-Growing Sport in America

Pickleball is hot
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2022 1:30 PM CST
It May Be the Fastest-Growing Sport in America
Your pickleball court awaits.   (Getty/Glen Richard)

Pickleball, anyone? If the sport isn't familiar to you, that probably won't be the case much longer. A number of stories point out that it just might be the fastest-growing sport in America. "Pickleball Is Ready for Prime Time," is how a headline in the New York Times puts it. The story begins by noting a pop-culture milestone: Larry David mentions he enjoys playing in a recent Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Coverage:

  • The game: It's a "cross among tennis, pingpong, and badminton, played with a paddle and a perforated plastic ball," explains NPR. It's typically played on a court roughly one-quarter the size of a tennis court, and it has a lower net, per the Guardian.

  • The growth: About 5 million people regularly play in the US, roughly double the figure of five years ago, according to stats from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, per NPR. The sport even has its own governing body—USA Pickleball.
  • More growth: Two "national professional tournaments" exist, and corporate sponsors are scrambling to sign up, notes NPR. The Times reports that CBS Sports Network, ESPN3, Fox Sports, and the Tennis Channel are among the networks that plan to cover the sport.
  • Accessibility: Yes, it's popular among retirees, and the Times quotes none other than Friends alum Matthew Perry (a former junior tennis whiz who is not quite a retiree at 52) on why he plays several times a week: "I don’t move around as well as I used to, but I saw my friend Amanda Peet talking about pickleball on a talk show and I was like, 'I have to try this.'" NPR notes that the biggest growth is coming among players under 55.
  • Origins: Any story covering the fad generally points out that the game was invented by three middle-aged fathers in Washington state in 1965. On Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, to be exact. They invented it for their children, according to a blurb at USA Pickleball.
  • A downside: The game also is one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada, and the CBC points out a drawback: The combination of a whiffle ball and hard paddles results in a relatively noisy game, and people who live near tennis-cum-pickleball courts vent their frustrations to the outlet.
(More pickleball stories.)

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