By Bowie Gray
Throughout recent years, a new sport with a very catchy name has exponentially increased in popularity. According to a report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, in 2022, there are over 4.8 million pickleball players in the United States. Pickleball, a sport based on the combination of different aspects of ping-pong, tennis, and badminton, has been coined “highly contagious” by the USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association.) The rules of pickleball are simple, making it an easily enjoyable and widely appreciated sport. One tennis court makes four separate pickleball courts, which are small enough that players can hold conversations throughout the game. This social aspect of the sport catches the attention of many novice or inexperienced players. Pickleball has accumulated success from the opportunities it provides to a large and diverse community. Engaging in pickleball, many individuals master their hand-eye coordination, balance skills, and improve their reflexes. For older athletes or those with physical limitations, pickleball provides a less strenuous alternative that offers excellent exercise. The USA Pickleball Association released a study in 2021 that half of all serious players (who practice over eight times each year) were over the age of 55.
Pickleball has also recently blown up in mainstream media, winning over a large community of celebrities. Ellen Degeneres hosted a segment focusing on her passion for the sport, the Kardashians were seen playing it on their reality show, and many popular news sites have explored the sport’s increasing popularity. In breaking news, beloved NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Draymond Green bought a professional pickleball team. This co-owned team is one of twelve in the Major Pickleball League. Additionally, Stephen Colbert has planned to hold a two-hour pickleball tournament on November 17th. This event will host 16 different celebrities competing to donate to Comic Relief US, a non-profit organization that benefits the homeless community in the United States.
Throughout pickleball history, Ben Johns is one player who stands out for his outstanding accomplishments within the community. Johns first played pickleball while practicing with his older brother, an athlete who needed a practice partner on his pro tennis tour. He continues to explain that pickleball courts were close to the tennis courts he used to spend time at, and after practicing a few times, he felt hooked. Although starting his career not too long ago, Johns has already found success. Being only 23 years old, Ben Johns competed on the Professional Pickleball Tour and impressively won over 50 titles. These tournaments Johns participates in are now featured on many popular broadcasting networks such as CBS Sports, the Tennis Channel, and ESPN. Continuing the spread of the sport, Johns offers his knowledge and assistance virtually on an informational platform called TopCourt.
Pickleball is simply beginning its journey as a popular sport. As the sport continues to expand and assemble a larger fanbase, the possibilities of its success are endless. In the near future, courts will be more accessible, many athletes will attain a new passion, and pickleball may even feature as an Olympic sport.