Did you know that pickleball has been around for more than 50 years? It hasn’t hit the mainstream until its recent trajectory making it the fastest-growing sport in America. This article will give you the basics of pickleball if you’re unfamiliar. Further, we will provide a detailed comparison between pickleball and tennis growth and some interesting facts.
Let’s Jump in!
Pickleball: What Is It?
The game’s origins can be traced back to Bainbridge Island, Washington, when three fathers created it to amuse their kids. Joel Prichard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum invented Pickleball in the summer of 1965. The rules and game has evolved over the years but has seen a massive rise in popularity over the past few years.
Pickleball is a fun, fast-paced sport with exciting gameplay that is becoming increasingly loved worldwide. It is a unique fusion of badminton, table tennis, and tennis but has a distinctive flavor. People of all ages joined in the fun because it is simple to learn and has a great community of supportive players. Like other racket sports, Pickleball can be played solo or in doubles, but most players prefer doubles because of the great social dynamic.
Statistics On Pickleball's Popularity Growth
Here are a few statistics that demonstrate pickleball’s expanding popularity.
• Surprisingly, about 4.8 million people play pickleball in the United States.
• While the number of pickleball players has increased by 39.3% over the last two years, I wonder how much growth will continue as we come out of the pandemic.
• Over the past seven years, the number of pickleball players has nearly doubled (2014-21).
• In 2021, the median age of players was 38.1 years old on average, down from 41 in 2020. This demonstrates how pickleball is becoming more popular among young people.
• Casual players are, on average, 33.6 years old, whereas core players are, on average, 47.5 years old.
• Over 33% of pickleball players are 65 years old, the largest demographic. It’s said to improve balance and reflexes, but getting out there with friends and family is fun.
• 18 to 34 has the second highest percentage of players (27.2%) of any other age group. However, this age group also has the highest rate (33.9%) of casual gamers.
Interesting Facts About Pickleball
• Seattle has the most courts per capita of any city, with three courts per 20,000 persons. Players state that the low barrier of entry, ease of rules, and welcoming community are why it’s growing so rapidly.
• Did you know that Naples, Florida, is the pickleball capital of the world? Why Naples you may ask? They opened a pickleball epicenter with over 60 permanent courts and a world-class and comprehensive training center to spread the joy of pickleball.
• Washington State’s official sport is pickleball. The governor approved the legislation on March 28, 2022. The state bill passed with an 83-15 senate vote, stating that “from young to old anyone can enjoy the game!” Washingtonians are proud of their pickleball heritage, and that’s why it holds the most pickleball courts per capita.
Read our full post on Pickleball’s history.
Origins Of Tennis
The handball game jeu de paume (also known as the “game of the palm”) was popular in France in the 12th and 13th centuries. Historians believe the game started in Birmingham, England, then referred to as lawn tennis. The game’s rules have been in place since 1875 with only slight changes. Finally, rackets were not introduced until the 16th century when the sport was named “real tennis.”
While it’s one of the three main racket sports, tennis is played in singles or doubles, just like pickleball. Tennis has transformed from a secluded, specialized activity to a well-liked international sport. Nowadays, tennis is loved practically everywhere and is commonly known as one of the most widely played individual racket sports worldwide.
Growth Of Tennis vs Pickleball
Tennis growth numbers are also awe-inspiring. It has grown more in the past two years than in its long history. With a 22% increase and almost 3 million new players reported from 2019-2020, racket sales were up 40% yearly. People wanted to get outside and stay healthy during the pandemic, and tennis is where they turned.
While pickleball witnessed growth in the same time frame of 39.3%, it’s important to note that tennis has grown far more in the last two years than in the previous two.
When comparing tennis vs. pickleball players, tennis has approximately 22 million players in the USA, whereas pickleball has about 4.8 million players. Surprisingly, there are over 250,000 tennis courts in the USA compared to about 30,000 pickleball courts.
(Are you looking for new pickleball courts and players in your area? Read our latest post on how to find them)
These statistics demonstrate that pickleball is expanding more quickly, despite tennis being considerably more common in the USA. While tennis only has a few century’s headstarts, players continue to look over their shoulders at pickleball as a rapidly growing sport.
Are you wondering what to wear when playing pickleball? Check out our new post!
Paddles Vs. Rackets
Unlike pickleball, which uses paddles, tennis uses stringed rackets. Tennis rackets are strung tightly with nylon or natural gut strings, giving players more control and ball speed when crossing the net. The PROs often serve a tennis ball at around 150 mph. Unlike pickleball paddles, they are typically wood, composite, or graphite. The speed of a pickleball is all about the angle and arm strength and usually tops out around 25-45 mph.
Tennis Gameplay Vs Pickleball
While the goal of each game involves sending a ball back and forth over a net, there are some critical differences in the pickleball rules and scoring to take note of.
Scoring in tennis is made up of advantage sets. Usually, the first player to win six games wins the set but must win by at least two sets. The tennis points system goes from Love(0)-15-30-45- to win the match, which is 1 set in a 6-set game. As a result of a tie (6-6), players need to continue to play until one player has a 2 sets advantage.
While the two sets (or points in pickleball) advantage is needed to win the match, pickleball is played to 11, 15, or 21 points and doesn’t have sets. This makes for faster games, and you can play many different people or teams within a few hours on the court.
Tennis vs Pickleball Court
Tennis courts are measured 60 ft wide by 120 ft long, making them around 3 times as big as a pickleball court. The Pickleball court size also stays the same with either doubles or singles play, which isn’t true for tennis. Some other key facts are the net height is slightly lower in pickleball at 34″.
The Bottom Line
Although tennis is very popular, pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in America and is increasingly popular worldwide. The fact that more young people are taking up pickleball is one of the encouraging indicators that pickleball is not solely for retirees. This begs the question, will pickleball overtake tennis?
Despite its undeniable rise in popularity over the past few years, it still has a long way to go before it can rival other sports like tennis. There is no doubt that pickleball has grown in popularity internationally as enthusiasts have shared their passion for the game with others worldwide. Still, only time will tell how prominent the tennis vs pickleball rivalry will become.
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