Bruce Yeung ; IG : @ yeungphotography
Growing the Game
By Kevin Cretella
Pickleball has quickly become the nation ’ s fastest growing sport . However , as pros and ambassadors of the game , we mustn ’ t allow its meteoric rise to lull us into a sense of complacency . Instead , we must remain vigilant in maintaining our strong base of core pickleball enthusiasts , while striving to add excited new recruits to the pickleball ranks .
Pickleball ’ s core demographic is age 55 and up . For those that want to remain active and social through sport , but have lost a step , pickleball is the perfect solution . Golf , albeit a great sport , does not offer the level of aerobic exercise that pickleball provides and takes up most of the day . Hence , the rise of pickleball in this age group . Open plays and clinics at local clubs and parks are generally filled with players in this category and many of these players become regulars . With this in mind , it ’ s vital that we develop progressive systems that keep pickleball fresh and interesting for these players . We must continually challenge these players to reach new milestones regarding technique and strategy relative to their respective level , moving them through stages , with delineations such as , “ Newbies ”, “ Intermediates ”, and “ Advanced ”. However , the major factor for this age group is to keep their joints happy by developing hard courts that have a “ soft ” surface and pickleballs that bounce well on clay courts . We , as pros , must work closely with engineers to ensure that we push the boundaries of court surfaces and ball technology to keep up with the demand presented by the aging “ baby boomer ” population .
As pickleball becomes more popular , there ’ s a trickledown effect of the old guard exposing younger players to the game . This can happen organically through grandparents teaching their children and grandchildren at family gatherings or systematically when pickleball is taught by physical education teachers in schools . Either way , the key component here is that we as coaches find ways to keep these younger players involved in the game . We must hold regular pickleball junior clinics at clubs and parks , and better yet , pickleball junior socials . Children are naturally drawn to activities that are fun “ play ” activities . Add music , food , and friends to the mix and you have the ingredients necessary to keep any child coming back for more . For juniors , we can follow USTA ’ s lead by offering a robust calendar of events that are based on a “ levels ” system . A USTA L-7 , which USTA termed a “ Tennis Play Day ”, sounds an awful lot like what I just described . Getting kids hooked on the game will start at L-7 “ Pickleball Parties ”. As these young players develop and become more experienced , they ’ ll progress through the levels until they eventually end up playing in an L-1 “ National Tournament ”.
Lastly , is the young adult category . This seems to be the group that gets lost in the mix when it comes to pickleball . However , if targeted properly , this demographic will become pickleball ’ s greatest driving force as they are the bridge between the generations . There are generally two types of people in this group , those with little to no tennis experience and those who competed at a high tennis level . Either way , these young to middle
4 Around The Post July 2021 www . pprpickleball . org