Pickleball has emerged as the fastest-growing sport in America, with more than 3.5 million players across the country.
Birthed in the 1960s, the game combines elements of ping-pong, badminton, and tennis. It’s become a trendy way to get exercise as people seek alternatives to closed gyms.
From 2016-2019, pickleball’s participation rate increased by 9.7%, with people 65 and older accounting for one-fifth of all players. Numbers from 2020 are not yet released.
Pickleball has gained enough momentum to attract endorsers and broadcasting contracts.
- Last year, the Professional Pickleball Association announced an agreement with ESPN, which will see the network air all of the league’s 2021 tournaments.
- In 2018, racquet maker Selkirk Sport signed Tyson McGuffin, the world’s top-ranked pickleball player, to an endorsement deal. Terms were not disclosed.
The accessibility of pickleball has made it attractive to a broad swath of the public.
“Pickleball still has that backyard, beer-drinking sports feel,” said McGuffin. “Coming from playing college tennis and pro tennis, it is so much more enjoyable.”
The final match of the World Pickleball Championship aired on CBS Sports on Sunday. It was the first pickleball tournament with $100,000 in cash prizes and generated an estimated $1 million for the local Punta Gorda, Fla. economy.