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Pickle Ball, the Fastest Growing Sport in America?

ROCKWALL, TX- Tanner Humm, 25, recently moved back to his home town of Rockwall, TX after a brief stint in college. During that 4 year period away, the local YMCA gym completely remodeled their facility and made one surprising new addition, a Pickle Ball court. Every week day at exactly 9:30AM, a group of dedicated retired baby boomers play ball competitively at the YMCA.

Having never heard of the sport, Tanner was both intrigued and hesitant. Was this a local game made up by some bored retirees or a legitimate sport? In fact, Pickle Ball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. having enjoyed an 84% increase in participation since 2010. According to the US Open Pickle Ball Championships, there are an estimated 2 million “Picklers” playing today and that number is expected to surpass 8 million people by 2018.

The game of Pickle Ball is a combination of table tennis and tennis but is played on a much smaller court. The game can be played 1 v. 1 but many “Picklers” choose to play doubles, or 2 v. 2 to cover the court more easily. Team members each play with a paddle that is slightly smaller than a tennis racket and a ball that resembles a whiffle ball.

The average age of a Pickle Ball player is 50 years old, but that number is quickly dropping as more people adopt the sport. The low impact on knees and joints is what makes the game so appealing to seniors. Being athletic does help in Pickle Ball but skill comes from having great hand-eye coordination and balance.

The rules of the game are very similar to tennis, but there is one major difference that makes Pickle Ball distinct. In Pickle Ball, the opposing team must let the ball bounce once before they can return it, AND the serving team must let the initial return bounce once before it can be hit. After that, players are free to hit the ball mid-flight to catch the opposing team off guard. Games are played until one team reaches 11 points and wins by at least 2 points.

Honestly I’m surprised by just how competitive the games are between two different generations. We were getting beat bad by people that are old enough to be our parents!” said, Tanner after losing a game of 11 to 4. “I have been playing for little over a month and I still can’t get enough. The game is both fun and social but has a high degree of skill involved.

To learn more about Pickle Ball visit www.usapa.org/what-is-pickleball/

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