Pickleball: The Fastest Growing Sport in America

Game once considered “old” has younger generations in excitement


Photo courtesy J. Eaton

Knox Eaton (10) plays pickleball in the Florida Keys at sunset on vacation.

Will Eaton, Co-Editor-in-Chief/News Editor

For many people, pickleball has been one of those games that they’ll play once in their life in gym class. The unit comes, one learns the basic skills of the game, and then they move on with life, most likely never thinking of pickleball again. Or perhaps it’s a game that a person’s grandparents might play at a retirement community.  But as of late, pickleball has received a new life, and many young people are once again being drawn to the game of paddle and ball.

It’s been called the fastest growing sport in America by many, with courts and tournaments popping up all over the country. Adults and kids alike can enjoy this growing sport. As time has progressed, the sport has gotten more and more media coverage, creating new audiences globally. This growth isn’t a statement pulled out of thin air – the numbers help back it up. According to npr.org, pickleball now has over 4.8 million players in the game, almost double the number from only five years ago.

The recent growth has mainly been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many looking for a fun way to stay active during the times of isolation.

Stu Upson, the CEO of USA Pickleball, believes that many look forward to pickleball as a relaxing yet fun getaway from life.

“People are looking for avenues to have some fun, get some exercise, but do it in an environment that’s not divisive,” Upson said. “That’s a pretty important thing in our society today I believe.”

Pickleball courts used to only be common in the retired population, near retirement homes or villages. But the pickleball wave has now hit a new audience, reaching players aged anywhere from early teens to late twenties. When going on vacation, it’s common to see pickleball courts in resorts. Teenagers and young adults are often met with these courts, and end up spending countless hours trying to perfect their craft during the summer.

This past summer, Skyler Drummer (10), on a family trip to the Florida Keys, found a pickleball court. He made use of the court over the entirety of the trip, pushing himself to work on his skills. He was satisfied with his growth and was happy he found such an interesting hobby to keep him entertained.

“When I was in the Keys, pickleball was a daily activity no matter what,” Drummer said. “Because I’m competitive and just enjoyed the sport in general, I was able to have a fun time playing with my friends.”

Tennis players have also found similarities between pickleball and tennis. With these similarities, it allows them to thrive in both sports. Wade Cooper Neely (9) is a tennis player who enjoys playing pickleball.

“I’ve played at the Spartanburg Country Club,” Neely said. “I like how it’s like tennis, but you don’t have to move as much, so it’s a little bit faster paced.”