The US’s Fastest-Growing Sports Is Not What You Think

You won’t find pickleball on ESPN often, but it is the fastest-growing sport in America. Pickleball, which was created in 1965 with a paddle, a plastic ball and two balls, is considered to be a mix of tennis, pingpong, and badminton. NPR mentions it. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, 4.8 million people play the sport. This is more than five years ago. 

“We’re still small and scrappy, but we’re not so innocent anymore,”Stu Upson is the CEO of USA Pickleball. “People are looking for avenues to have some fun, get some exercise, but do it in an environment that’s not divisive. That’s a pretty important thing in our society today I believe.”While the average pickleball player is over 65 years old, the most growth occurs among players below 55. There are approximately 10,000 spots to play in the country, and there is always more. 

Pickleball has seen tremendous growth. There is even a professional tournament called The Pickleball Tournament.Professional Pickleball Association TourThis was formed in 2018 by the Carolina Hurricanes NHL owner. USA Pickleball approved another pro-tour in 2019, which was launched by the Association of Pickleball Professionals. 

“Professional players are being able to really become celebrities and spotlights, people that are recognizable in the world,”Connor Pardoe, Commissioner of the PPA Tour. “The reason we do that, one, is to make sure the best people are at our events and, two, to really protect our investment.”

Pickleball is starting to be noticed by sponsors. USA Pickleball is proud to have two dozen brand partners. These include an online health market and gear markers. “We have people who understand the sports business, not just the pickleball business,”Upson. “Is the revenue that’s coming in important? It’s critical for us to reinvest in the sport and grow, but it’s not going to drive us.”

Pickleball’s next step is to be included in the Olympics. But when will this happen? “Every Olympic venue, whether it’s Paris in 2024, L.A. in 2028 or Brisbane in ’32, they all want maximum viewership,”Steve Sidwell, International Federation of Pickleball According to the Desert SunIn January. “Because that gets them maximum sponsorships, right? No mystery there. The way they get maximum viewership is they get events that people simply like to watch. That’s what it boils down to.”


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