PARK CITY, Utah. — Pickleball, it sounds a little funny, but it is a more commonly heard word these days, especially throughout Park City. The Park City MARC offers four brand-new outdoor pickleball courts. In the winter season, they’re able to accommodate up to four pickleball courts in their covered tennis bubble or in the PC MARC gymnasium. Basin Recreation offers many pickleball options throughout the year. Programs are updated as they become available. If you have questions about their Pickleball schedule, contact (435) 655-0999. The local pickleball participation numbers are made apparent, as more options to play pickleball have become available.
For the beginner, pickleball is a court sport played on a badminton-sized court with the net set to a height of 34 inches at the center. It’s played with a perforated plastic ball and composite or wooden paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors and is easy for beginners to learn but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. In addition, the game has developed a passionate following due to its friendly, social nature, multi-generational appeal, and ease of participation (anyone can do it).
Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. New players can learn the basic rules quickly in a single session. No special apparel is needed – just something comfortable and appropriate for a court sport. Equipment is inexpensive and easily portable. The sport is governed by the USA Pickleball Association.
2021 marks the 56th anniversary of pickleball, as it was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, by three enterprising dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. Their children were bored with their usual summertime activities. It evolved from the original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout North America and is now taking off in other parts of the world.
The origin of the game’s name is very interesting, especially since no pickles are used. Accounts of how the name originated differ. According to the game’s co-founders Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “The combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” However, according to co-founder Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it, ” said USA Pickleball in a statement.
A pickleball court is 20’ x 44’ for both singles and doubles. The net is hung at 36” at the ends and hangs 34” in the middle. A non-volley zone extends 7’ back from the net on each side, commonly called “the kitchen.”
Competitive paddles used in pickleball are constructed from a high-tech composite. An official pickleball is made of plastic and is between .78 to .935 ounces and 2.874 to 2.972 inches in diameter.
In 2009, USA Pickleball held the first Nationals Pickleball Tournament in Arizona. Over 400 players participated. In 2019, the USA Pickleball National Championships were held at the world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden, in Palm Springs, CA. The event drew more than 2,000 players who competed for $80,000 in prize money, the largest cash purse in the history of the sport at that time. The 2019 event also included over 200 hours of live-streamed matches. Canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020, Nationals is scheduled to take place again this fall at Indian Wells November 6-13.
Estimated Pickleball Players Within the United States
In their 2020 Pickleball Participant Report (which includes data through 2019), the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reported pickleball currently had 3.46 million players in the U.S. Below are a few details from the 2020 SFIA Pickleball Participation Report:
- Of the 3.46 million players, 2.2 million were “Casual” players who play 1-7 times a year
- 3 million were “Core” players who play 8 or more times a year
- The Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR) for all players from 2016 to 2019 was 7.2%, for a total growth rate of 23% over three years
- 62% of participants are men and 38% are women
- The average age for all players is 43.5 years old
- The average age for Core players is 51.5 and Casual players 35.5 years old
- 60% of Core players are 55 or older
- 79% of Casual players are 54 or younger
- From 2015-2019:
- the percentage of Core players ages 54 and younger grew from 25% to 40%
- the percentage of Casual players ages 54 and younger grew from 78% to 79%
- these increases in the percentages of both Core and Casual players less than 55 years of age reflect faster growth among younger players
- The percentages by age of Total, Core, and Casual participants are:
- The 3.46 million participants represent 1.14% of the US population of 303M people ages 6+; the 1.3M Core players represent 0.41% of that population: demonstrating the tremendous potential for further growth of the sport.
- The SFIA US regions with the largest number of Core participants were:
- South Atlantic (FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, DC) = 264,000
- East North Central (WI, MI, IL, OH, IN) = 242,000
- Pacific (CA, OR, WA) = 242,000
- Mountain (AZ, NV, NM, UT, CO, ID, WY, MT) = 165,000
- These four regions account for 73% of Core players
- 56% of Core players live east of the Mississippi River
USA Pickleball On Social Media
USA Pickleball social media followers support the sports’ steady growth. In December 2020, followers on Facebook numbered 26,527, almost double from two years ago. Instagram was added as a new channel in 2019 and ended the year with 12,383 followers. In November of 2020, USA Pickleball added an official Twitter account. USA Pickleball Social Channels saw 42% year-over-year growth from 2019 to 2020.
2020 USA Pickleball Facts and Highlights (as of 12.31.20)
- Places to Play: USA Pickleball Places to Play Database: 8,735. Over 800 new locations were added to the database (67 new locations per month).
- Membership: 37,000 (decrease of approximately 4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of most sanctioned tournaments including both the Indoor and Outdoor National Championships and 8 of 11 Regional Championships. As of April 1, 2021, USAP membership has nearly recovered the 4% membership drop and is currently over 40,000 members. Since 2017, USA Pickleball membership has doubled in size.
- Total Courts: 34,094
- Certified Referees: Due to COVID-19, USA Pickleball was only able to certify a few new referees in 2020. By year’s end, USA Pickleball had 211 Certified Referees.
- Level I & II Referees: USA Pickleball launched a new referee training program in April.
- Referee Training: Referee and public training page