The club manager of a Southern California country club said she hadn’t heard of the sport pickleball until a few years ago. Now, they are building courts wherever possible to meet the growing demand.
“We’ve actually turned our basketball court into a temporary pickle,” Ali Sullivan of Manhattan Country Club told CBS News. “So it’s really any place we can find.”
The country club isn’t the only place showing growing interest. Over the past four years, pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in America, with nearly five million playing.
Pickleball dates back to 1965 when families on Bainbridge Island, Washington, created the game to keep their children entertained. There are now hundreds of tournaments held annually. And this year, the NBA also features LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Drummond Green.In a team sport, which is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong.
Brian Weller, who helped open PKL in South Boston four months ago, says his business — which pairs a premium pickball with food and drink — is trying to keep up with the game’s growing popularity.
“The response from the community has been fantastic,” he said. “We don’t have enough courts.”
Weller and his colleagues got the idea to start the PKL during the pandemic, when he and some couples started playing together. Now, they bring in an array of customers.
“We have an eight-year-old birthday tomorrow, you know, a 175-person corporate event, you know, a mom and dad playing with their 20-year-old daughter and her boyfriend,” he said. “It’s everyone’s melting pot.”
Pickleball player Carol Levine also took up the sport during the COVID lockdown after her husband suggested she play after being diagnosed with a deadly pre-cancer disease.
“I had radiation and 16 more surgeries in a year and my husband was like, ‘I think you’ll really like this,’ and I played and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s easy. I can do this. I am,'” she said. “Even my doctor told me, ‘I can tell you’re much better.'”
Levine says the game “saved” him.
“I’m in remission and they didn’t think that was going to happen and I was lucky,” she said.
Pickleball helped former volleyball and racquetball player Lynn Cherry return to the sport after tearing her ACL.
“Once I saw the game and I saw the shape of the court, I’m like, even with my bad knees, I think I can do that,” she said.
Her newfound love for the game inspired her to create a website about the game as well as the podcast “Pickleball Fire,” where she discusses tips, industry news, players, and other stories.
Similarly, Erin McHugh turned her love for pickleballs into the media with a book called “Pickleball is Life,” which explores everything from etiquette to how to build a DIY court at home. She has also helped build two courts and developed a fitness program for freshmen.
“When you love pickleball, I think you become a missionary,” she said. “You want everyone to play. You want everyone to be as happy as you are.”
She says she chose the title for her book because she has benefited from the benefits of playing the game.
“What else do I want to think about: Why isn’t life like a pickle?” he said. “Pickleball is easy. You can always get better. Anyone can play. You can teach anyone. It’s cheap. You get healthier. You meet new friends. What’s more?”