Is Pickleball the Fastest Growing Sport in America?
Oct 25, 2019
Created in 1965, pickleball hasn’t been around long, but that hasn’t stopped the sport from quickly becoming a household name. Today, the game is played by people of all ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds.
You may have heard a rumor that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and we’re here to investigate just how quickly our favorite sport is growing! Read on to see where pickleball has been in the last 10 years, and where we think the sport is heading.
10 Years Ago
Even though Pickleball began in 1965, the sport has grown dramatically in the past 5-10 years. Pickleball’s recent popularity is in large part due to its engaged community of players. Pickleballers love talking pickleball to anyone who will listen! It’s no surprise that this enthusiastic tribe has easily converted friends and family into pickleball lovers, too. In addition to its inclusive community, pickleball has also become an attractive sport to those looking for a low-impact way to stay fit and make friends. Since pickleball is so approachable and easy-to-learn, it really is no surprise that more and more people are buying paddles and heading to nearby courts to get started playing! Speaking of courts, back in 1965, pickleball courts were few and far between, but today, most folks can find a pickleball court close to home or they can simply order a portable net online and set up their own, personal pickleball court at home!
Other than the amazin’ community and pickleball’s approachability, what specifically took place over the past 10 years to drive up the interest in our favorite sport?
Around 2008 and 2009, pickleball started to make a big splash in the sporting world.
According to the USAPA history outline, in 2008, the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook – Revision was published. Pickleball was included in the National Senior Games Champion Festival for the first time and there were 420 venues with pickleball courts in North America.
By 2009, about 400 players from 26 different states and Canadian provinces participated in the first USAPA National Tournament for all ages. Also, the USAPA established a grant program to assist players in creating new pickleball sites. Thus, making it easier for new players to join in the fun.
The Last 5 Years
Interest in pickleball didn’t stop in 2009 but instead exploded. Selkirk Sport reports a 385% increase in the number of pickleball players since 2010.
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), in 2016, there were 1.57 million casual players who played 1-7 times a year and 930,000 frequent players who played 8 or more times a year.
SFIA observed that out of the casual players, 63% were male and 37% were female. And, out of the frequent players, 73% were male and 27% were female. Also, during SFIA’s study, they noticed that 13% of casual participants and 75% of frequent participants were 55 and older.
In 2017, there were approximately 5,000 Pickleball venues and over 15,000 courts covering every U.S. state and Canadian province.
It was estimated that about 3 million people played pickleball in 2018 (a 12% increase from the prior year), according to SFIA.
In USAPA’s 2018 Facts & Highlights, they reported 30,803 memberships at a rate of 720 new members each month. They also reported a total of 20,933 pickleball courts.
As for 2019, USAPA has held many tournaments, including the USAPA Nationals scheduled for early November at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
According to SFIA there are now a total of 3.3 million Pickleball players with about 20% of the participants being 65 or older.
2019 marks the 54th anniversary of pickleball! We see many more anniversaries in the future.
The sport continues to grow thanks to the many ways new players can get involved via community centers, P.E. classes, retirement communities, sports competitions, television, and YMCA facilities.
In 2018, over 2,000 players competed in the U.S. Open Championships, and the event is estimated to grow by 40% each year.
TV stations play a huge impact on pickleball. For the next 5 years and possibly longer, the Pickleball Nationals are currently contracted to be hosted at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which is broadcasted on channels like ESPN.
Just in 2018 alone, ESPN live broadcasted 17 hours of the Pickleball Nationals tournament and aired a 1-hour special about the sport on ESPNEWS.
We live in an age where social media is huge for maintaining interest in a growing sport. Retired professional tennis players are taking a swing at pickleball and gaining huge followings through social media. You can see players like Tyson McGuffin, Enrique Ruiz, JoAnne Russell, and Kaitlyn Christian playing pickleball on Facebook or Instagram.
Pickleball isn’t just a sport for North Americans, though. The World Pickleball Federation’s main goal is to fuel the growth of the sport globally by providing support, training, and governance. Currently, WPF has 6 different confederations that include countries like China, Australia, Israel, the United Kingdom, and more.
Pickleball is often cited as one of the fastest-growing sports, and while there are a lot of different ways to calculate and measure what makes a sport the “fastest-growing,” we’re pretty confident that pickleball will continue to catch the attention of new players for many years to come!
Now that we can all agree that pickleball’s future looks bright, it’s time to pick up a paddle and head to the court for some much-needed fun.
Looking for beginner tips and guides? Check out a few of our favorite ways to get started playing pickleball below: