As I walked into the gym, I heard a very unfamiliar "pock-pock- pock" sound. I'd played tennis, racquetball, and a smattering of other racquet sports but this sounded nothing like I had heard before. I had hit the pickleball before, messing around with my kids at our local "tennis-courts-converted-with-pickleball-lines," but this was different. I was about to enter the world of pickleball.
I was quickly welcomed by the small group (even though my paddle was made of wood) and they taught me the rules, the etiquette, and the strategies. Adam, Cathy, Chris, Heath, and Kelly were patient as I hit ball after ball into the net or stumbled like a newborn giraffe when they hit the ball at my feet. They soon became my friends and I looked forward to our regular matches.
My newfound sport is actually not new at all. Pickleball was invented during the summer of 1965 by a couple of dads on Bainbridge Island, Washington, who heard their kids complaining that they were bored. Little did they know that their backyard game would become the fastest growing sport in America.
There are currently 36.5 million pickleball players estimated in the U.S., with 14% of Americans saying they played pickleball at least once in the past year. Those stats place pickleball as one of the largest sports in America, measured by participation, trailing only running & cycling. Players 18-34 make up the largest percentage of pickleball players at 28.8% nationwide.
Denver currently ranks 2nd in U.S. cities for the most places to play pickleball with 37 locations. Our local area boasts 9 official locations.
Pickleball is played on a court that is much smaller than a tennis court - about the size of that for badminton - on which players hit a heavy-duty wiffle ball over a net with large paddles. Even though singles pickleball exists, most people play pickleball with a partner.
Pickleball is also incredibly social and provides an outlet for many to make new friends of all ages. No matter who you are, that competitive fire could be in you, waiting to show itself as you have fun on a pickleball court near you. Who knows, you might just find the hobby you never knew you needed.