Pickleball’s Meteoric Rise: Quick Stats on America’s Fastest-Growing Sport
Pickleball: America's Fastest-Growing Sport

Pickleball: America's Fastest-Growing Sport

Pickleball, often hailed as America's fastest-growing sport, has captured the hearts of millions across the country. Here’s a quick dive into the latest statistics and trends that showcase the sport’s burgeoning popularity.

Television Viewership Soars

One of the most remarkable indicators of pickleball’s rise is its television viewership. The 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships drew over 2.6 million viewers across major networks like ESPN, Tennis Channel, and PickleballTV. This event, highlighted by the Deep Eddy Vodka Celebrity Pickleball Showdown, captivated 390,000 viewers, marking a high point for pickleball broadcasts.

Age Distribution

The average age of pickleball players continues to decline, now standing at 34.8 years, highlighting a significant shift towards younger participants. This trend reflects pickleball’s expanding appeal among various age groups. Breaking down the age distribution:

  • 18-24 years: 18% of players
  • 25-34 years: 40% of players
  • 35-44 years: Rapid growth of 86% since August 2022
  • 55+ years: 19.9% of players

This data underscores the sport's popularity surge among younger demographics, contrasting with its earlier reputation as a game primarily for older adults.

Gender Distribution

Men still dominate the pickleball scene, comprising 60.5% of the player base. However, the sport is witnessing a remarkable increase in female participation, with a 17.6% growth rate among women, compared to 13% among men. Among avid players, 62% are male, while casual players are split 57% male and 43% female.

Geographical Spread

Pickleball’s popularity is widespread, but certain areas stand out. The top 10 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) account for 45% of all pickleball participation. Notable DMAs include:

  • New York City: 11.3% of the DMA population
  • Los Angeles: 9.6%
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: 5.2%
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale: 3.1%
  • Seattle-Tacoma: 2.2%

These regions highlight pickleball’s strong presence in major metropolitan areas, further contributing to its rapid growth.

Background of Top Players: Tennis Dominates

Many of pickleball’s top players have seamlessly transitioned from tennis, leveraging their extensive racket sports background to excel on the pickleball court. This crossover has significantly enriched the competitive landscape of pickleball, with several former tennis players rising to prominence in the sport.

Notable Transitions and Adaptations:

  • Ben Johns and Federico Staksrud are prime examples of tennis players who have successfully transitioned to pickleball, bringing their strategic acumen and technical skills to the new sport.
  • Anna Bright found her tennis skills highly transferrable, quickly adapting to pickleball’s unique demands such as the one-handed top spin volleys and different grip techniques.
  • Jessie Irvine, a former WTA pro, has also made significant strides in pickleball, utilizing her tennis expertise to secure top positions in various tournaments.

Challenges and Adjustments:

  • Tennis players often need to adjust their aggressive swing styles and develop patience for the longer, more strategic points in pickleball. Connor Garnett noted the importance of adapting to pickleball’s emphasis on controlled, precise shots over power.
  • The transition also involves mastering pickleball-specific techniques, such as the “dinking” game and different volley techniques, which are less common in tennis.

Impact on Competitive Play:

  • The influx of former tennis players has not only raised the skill level in pickleball but also introduced diverse playing styles, making the sport more dynamic and competitive.
  • Christian Alshon and other former collegiate tennis players have enriched the sport with their high-level racket skills and competitive experience.

Diverse Backgrounds:

While many top players come from tennis, others like Dave Weinbach, who transitioned from table tennis, also showcase the versatility and appeal of pickleball across various racket sports. This blend of backgrounds has propelled pickleball’s competitive scene, making it a melting pot of skills and strategies from different racket sports. The sport continues to attract players from diverse athletic backgrounds, enhancing its appeal and competitiveness.

Explosive Growth in Pickleball Facilities and Locations

Pickleball has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, both in player participation and the number of available facilities. This surge underscores pickleball’s burgeoning presence in the American sports landscape.

Current Statistics:

  • Total Facilities: As of early 2024, there are 12,081 known pickleball facilities in the United States. This marks an increase from 11,864 at the end of 2023, showcasing a rapid expansion of dedicated pickleball spaces.
  • Number of Courts: The total number of pickleball courts has reached 51,937, reflecting a significant increase from the previous count of 44,094 in 2022. This growth indicates the sport's escalating popularity and the demand for more playing spaces.

Regional Highlights:

  • South Atlantic Region: Leading the charge with 1.9 million players, this region has the highest number of participants, followed by the Pacific (1.5 million) and East North Central (1.4 million) regions.
  • Mountain Region: Notably, this region boasts the highest number of dedicated courts per 1,000 participants (4.6), more than twice the national average, reflecting a strong infrastructure to support the sport’s growth.
  • California and Florida: California has the highest number of facilities (794), followed closely by Florida (770), reinforcing these states as major hubs for pickleball activity.

Investment and Development Needs:

  • Court Construction Demand: To meet the growing demand, it is estimated that over 25,000 new courts will be needed, requiring an investment of approximately $900 million. This need highlights the gap between the current supply of courts and the rising number of players.
  • Urban Shortfalls: Major cities like New York and Los Angeles are significantly below the national average in dedicated pickleball courts per capita, with a 98% deficiency. This presents a substantial opportunity for investment in urban pickleball infrastructure.

Membership and Community Support:

  • USA Pickleball Membership: The membership of USA Pickleball has grown by 15%, reaching 78,766 members, demonstrating increased community engagement and support for the sport.
  • Ambassadors and Tournaments: There are 1,973 USAPA ambassadors promoting the sport, and 237 official tournaments were held in 2022, marking a 55% annual increase.

The rapid growth of pickleball is a testament to its broad appeal and adaptability. With increasing media coverage, a younger and more diverse player base, and significant growth in facilities, pickleball is poised to continue its ascent, captivating players and fans alike across the nation.

For further details and more statistics, check out the full reports on Pickleheads, The DinkThe Pickleball Player, Recreation Management, SFIA, Pickleball Portal, Racquet Sports Center, and USA Pickleball.