It's not tennis – it's pickleball! Breaking down America's new obsession

New York, New York - While pickleball is considered one of the fastest-growing sports in the US due to its rising popularity and the longevity of player participation, many are still asking: what is pickleball exactly, and is it anything like tennis?

Pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in the country according to the Major Pickleball League that consist of players that range from all ages and skill levels.
Pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in the country according to the Major Pickleball League that consist of players that range from all ages and skill levels.  © Emilee Chinn / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

First off, no: Pickleball isn't tennis, or ping pong, or badminton, but rather a combination of all three that incorporates elements from each sport.

Uniquely, pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis-style net.

Like tennis, you can play singles matches or you can opt to feel like the Grand Slam-winning Williams sisters and play doubles.

Willie Mays, one of the greatest baseball players ever, has died
MLB Willie Mays, one of the greatest baseball players ever, has died

The game is played using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes and is enjoyed by players of all ages and skill levels.

As its popularity steadily grows in many neighborhoods and communities, several parks and recreation departments are currently meeting the demands of the public and repurposing tennis courts for pickleball games.

With all that being said, what are you waiting for?

If you are looking for an exciting new way to exercise, have fun, or try a new affordable sport, pickleball is the game for you.

The history of pickleball

Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited as the founders of pickleball.
Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum are credited as the founders of pickleball.  © Emilee Chinn / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

In 1965 on Bainbridge Island, pickleball was invented by three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum – whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities.

Originally, the fathers sought to play badminton on an old badminton court but failed to find proper equipment.

Improvising with table tennis paddles and a plastic ball, they lowered the badminton net from 60 to 36 inches and began volleying back and forth similarly to tennis. Soon after, the three men created the rules for pickleball.

By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was created in the backyard of Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian.

In 1972, a corporation was formed to protect pickleball as a sport and three short years later, it received national attention when the National Observer wrote about the sport for the first time.

The following year, in 1976, Tennis magazine followed the Observer's recognition with an article about America's newest racquet sport.

Since then, pickleball has evolved from the original handmade equipment and simple rules to a popular sport throughout the US and beyond.

Pickleball: From a family game to the major leagues

Irina Tereschenko (l), Zane Navratil (center l), Parris Todd (center r), and Rafa Hewett of team BLQK won the Pickle & Chill finals match during the Major League Pickleball finals tournament.
Irina Tereschenko (l), Zane Navratil (center l), Parris Todd (center r), and Rafa Hewett of team BLQK won the Pickle & Chill finals match during the Major League Pickleball finals tournament.  © Emilee Chinn / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Today, people can enjoy the game of pickleball for recreation or at a professional level.

In 2021, the Major Pickleball League (MLP) was created by founder Steve Kuhn, offering players the chance to compete for prize money and travel abroad.

The MLP is the first professional league of its kind in the US and has recently expanded from 12 to 16 teams.

Recently, team expansions have been highlighted by celebrity-athlete franchise owners that include sports legends LeBron James, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Kevin Durant.

Just last week, pickleball saw a huge development in the sport with the launch of the Women’s International Pickleball Association (WIPA), headlined by WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike.

The women's association will give athletes the chance to play in the first-ever Pickleball World Tour exclusively for women.

WIPA is set to announce further information about the Pickleball World Tour later this year.

Cover photo: Emilee Chinn / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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