Born more than 50 years ago in the state of Washington, the nation’s fastest-growing sport continues to attract newcomers of all ages and backgrounds. With over 2.8 million members in 2017 – an increase of 12 percent over the previous year, the game is played on a badminton-sized court divided into zones by a net that is 34 inches at the center. Players use paddles and a wiffle-type ball that combine badminton, ping-pong and tennis skills in an 11-point battle. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the 5,869 known places to play at the end of 2017 represent an increase of 1,122, or 93.5 locations per month.
Exhilarating fun and social . . . romancing pickleball is unstoppable: Wildly popular Brian Williams of MSNBC reported on this phenomenon last year; a national TV network covered a championship match; a field of more than 100 courts has been built for year-round play in Florida; and smiling players in this area have blossomed to more than 250.
Active, healthy and fun, the game has developed a passionate following among couples, multi-generational families, all levels of schools (including colleges), friends, and both genders of all ages. Why go to the gym, run or work out at home, usually bored and lonely? Other sports are usually played once per week or require a large number of participants. Easily learnable and free most of the time, experiences are memorable: Waiting to play the next game, one avid player remarked about her holistic enrichment: “It saved my life from boredom. Now I’m active, heathier and happier, with lots of new friends.”
In a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology last October, investigators from Texas A&M University and Florida State University surveyed 153 participants, ages 51 to 85, at pickleball competitions. The more deeply engaged in pickleball these enthusiasts were, the more likely they were to be highly satisfied with their lives and have a positive experience with aging.
Lifestyling with pickleball has enduring physical and psychological benefits. Young or old, you will feel better about yourself. This pickleball enthusiast is in the process of establishing courts in Agawam and at the JCC in Springfield.