Pickleball — the game, which has been called one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, continues to lure swarms of over 55’ers to local indoor facilities. It is also enticing Retirement Communities and over 55 Communities to re-think the need for building facilities to house the anticipated sports growth for future generations.
So, what’s this craze all about?
OK — what do you get when you mix a smidgeon of badminton, a pinch of ping-pong, and a slice of tennis?
Answer: The latest craze at active adult communities, Pickleball. Originally designed as a backyard lawn game for the whole family, Pickleball was created over 40 years ago by U.S. Representative Joel Pritchard and friends. Pickles, Pritchard’s family dog, had an obsession with chasing errant balls during play and would hide with them in the bushes. Hence the name: Pickleball.
Since its inception, Pickleball has evolved into an official paddle sport with formalized rules. Players use a suped-up square version of a ping-pong paddle and hit a whiffle-like ball over a lowered net on a badminton-sized court. Long popular with public schools, colleges and recreation departments, the sport has become increasingly popular with the over 55 crowd. Due to its growing demand, more 55+ active adult communities are adding Pickleball courts to their amenities.
Why is Pickleball so popular with Boomers?
Today, most boomers in the 55+ age group lead active lives, are health conscious and wish to continue to be involved in activities outside of shuffleboard. Though bodies tend to slow a bit with age and can be more prone to joint and muscle strain or injury, Pickleball provides an enjoyable alternative to higher impact sports, such as tennis. The rules of the game dictate an underhanded serve, a single bounce before the first hit, and a non-volley zone at the net which slows the game down significantly. Though it requires good hand-eye coordination and some stamina, the smaller-sized court decreases the need to run, which in turn lessens the probability of injury. The low impact nature of the sport opens the field so that all ages and mobility levels can participate.
Pickleball may be less strenuous and taxing on the body, but it does not mean there is a decrease in the physical benefits from playing the sport. The game still develops good reflexes, coordination, and provides a great cardiovascular workout. Due to its less taxing nature, older, active adults can continue to play this sport well into their retirement years and receive the same health benefits of higher impact sports.
Socialization is an added benefit of the game, providing retirees an opportunity to meet similarly active individuals who take part in recreational or tournament play. The first national Pickleball tournament was held in a retirement community that had 36 courts. The popularity of tournament play has continued to explode in recent years with the sport being added to the Senior Olympics in several states. As the number of Pickleball-enamored baby boomers reach retirement age, the demand for 55+ active adult communities with court amenities will continue to rise.
Millions of baby boomers retiring over the last 10 to 15 years in their late 50’s and 60’s are focusing on getting or staying healthy. So, the growth in pickleball is coming from the 77 million “baby boomers.” The USA Pickleball Association says the sport has grown from 50,000 active to more than 150,000 players in all 50 states and a number of countries world-wide in the last three years. Last year, pickleball was admitted to the National Senior Games, the first new sport to be added in 20 years.
You thought maybe you would be spending a lot of time on the golf course or tennis court once you retired. But you might just be surprised that Pickleball has supplanted golf as the primary outdoor activity in many communities.
Pickleball has caught active Adult Communities by storm. Many developments are converting tennis courts to pickleball courts, which gives the advantage of getting more courts in the same space.
The sport has particularly taken off in retirement communities in southern states, such as Florida and Arizona, where the game can be played outdoors year-round. But it’s also starting to grow in popularity in northern states. Some local athletic centers, such as YMCAs, have even begun hosting leagues and marking pickleball lines on tennis courts.
The game has gotten so popular in some areas that lines can form outside pickleball courts, causing many enthusiasts to urge their communities to add more courts.
The hardest part of the game for any age seems to be remembering the score. Unfortunately, I can attest to that!
Due to the longevity of its existence and ever increasing popularity, Pickleball appears to be much more than just a passing fad. With proven health and social benefits, Pickleball is certain to remain a mainstay in the lives of the 55+active-adult for years to come.
When I first arrived at Bristol Village, someone asked me if I played pickleball. I had never heard of pickleball, even though I did move here from Florida. It took me about a year to experience this sport craze. I absolutely love pickleball, and have played mixed doubles with a friend in the Senior Olympic trials here in Ohio.
Pickleball is picking up in popularity…
Say that three times fast!
It’s a game any age can play — that’s why it’s so popular!
So, join the dialogue – what is your experience with pickleball? Have you been struck by this latest craze? Let us know.
As always, I am…the Boomer Explorer.