According to many sources, pickleball is now the fastest growing sport in the United States. The sport transcended fad status during the pandemic, as suddenly every neighborhood tennis court was now accompanied by paddles slamming wiffle balls.
In 2021, pickleball participation soared to 4.8 million players, according to research from USA Pickleball. This 14.8% annual growth from 2020 follows a 21.3% rise from 2019 to 2020. This even exceeds a ridiculous average annual growth rate of 11.5% over the past five years. While everyone seems excited about the sport’s explosion, from Leonardo DiCaprio and the Clooney family to a Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers grandmother’s “hustle,” there’s fallout from the tumultuous flames. From coast to coast, the mighty mass of pickleball players encroaches on the hallowed green acrylic-coated concrete.
The Sports and Fitness Industry Association claims that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States. And he relentlessly steals tennis from his players and his real estate pic.twitter.com/nkvDXL1gcC
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 2, 2022
What is pickleball? Pickleball is similar to ping pong in that it is easy to master and hard to master. The rules of pickleball are similar to those of other racquet sports with some minor modifications. Similar to its basement cousin, pickleball is accessible to all ages and fitness levels as there is only a small amount of ground to cover. Just over a quarter the size of tennis courts, pickleball curbs measure 20 by 44 feet and are divided down the middle by the netting. Each side is divided into right and left service courts, with a “dead zone” 7 feet in front of the net on each side.
Although the sport is democratic, that does not mean that pickleball is a unanimous choice. The game can draw the ire of tennis players who hit alongside pickleball encounters of 20-30 people. Unlike the concentrated intensity of two-to-four-person tennis matches, most pickleball rallies feature the shouting, teasing, cheering, and din of 20-30 contestants, attendees, and barking golden retrievers.
Pickleball tournaments are fast, rowdy and can include up to 16 players in an area similar to the size of a tennis court. There is a suburban tie in the collection. The equipment is cheap. All players need to set up are shoes, a paddle, a net and a perforated polymer ball. However, tape goes to the top of tennis courts, as do chalk lines and multi-colored tape that mar the clean surface below.
In Long Beach, California, tennis players and pickleball players jousted as the latter encroached on the former’s territory in various public parks. One side wondered why people were pooping during the party, and the other pointed to the plastered courts and weak nets tied down by pickleballers. Each threw verbal jabs at the other throughout the spring, threatening to alert the authorities. The dispute became so heated that the Long Beach City Council became involved. His solution? Assign a former city councilman and current owner of a non-profit pickleball association to lead operations at the Seal Beach Tennis & Pickleball Outdoor Center. Let’s call this one to follow…
In Exeter, New Hampshire, none other than tennis great Martina Navratilova weighed in. One of the top three female tennis players of all time told pickleball players to go create their own court.
“I say if pickleball is so popular let them build their own courts :),” Navratilova tweeted.
I say if pickleball is so popular, let them build their own courts 🙂 https://t.co/WA1BBQaoWw
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) May 10, 2022
It’s not just tennis players who are expressing their displeasure with the pickleball hordes. Dozens of lawsuits claim that pickleball violates various municipal codes and/or association rules, and local governance often doesn’t know what to do.
In 2021, Roxanne Hudson lived next to pickleball courts in the remote Iron Mountain area of Michigan. Hudson told the local newspaper Daily News that she and her husband “just want to move” as the sound of paddles and plastic balls continues “hour after hour” and “drives you crazy”. City manager Jordan Stanchina proposed limiting play between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., but about 20 pickleball supporters attended a council meeting to oppose it.
“We’re going to try to dampen (the noise) somehow,” Mayor Dale Alessandrini said after 40 minutes of public comment.
It is not yet known if the Hudsons are staying.
Last year in Ridgewood, New Jersey, a local blogger wrote that the village of about 25,000 people had “declared (d) war on pickleball.” On Mayne Island, British Columbia, about 100 miles north of where pickleball was invented in 1965, the local Capital Daily featured the long-running saga of beginners encroaching on tennis, dubbed, The Pickleball Shot.
While pickleball’s hold on recreational hearts may find sympathetic ears from players, leaders and community developers, the sport still eclipses tennis. Over 22.6 million people hit the tennis courts in 2021, around 1 million more players than in 2020 and over 26% over the past two years. As the sports grow together, the battle between the two for the blessed ground inside the chain-link fences will also increase.