STORY: Somewhere between tennis, badminton and ping-pong…lies pickleball.
The Sports and Fitness Industry Association says it’s the fastest-growing sport in the United States.
And it’s relentlessly stealing tennis of its players and real estate.
Pickleball was born in the summer of 1965 in Washington state.
Three dads wanted to come up with a game the whole family could play
and named the sport after one of their dogs, Pickles.
Fast-forward almost 60 years and some 4.8 million people are playing it from coast to coast.
Marine veteran and pickleball coach Sonny Tannan has played an active role in the expansion of the sport.
“Pickleball basically, the number one thing about it, it's probably the most fun and social sport that you can ever play. It's the one rare sport that you can have every age, every generation, every background, ethnicity, doesn't matter where you come, walk of life, pick up this sport and you can be, just have a good time at it, you can be good or you can just be a recreational player.”
So what else lures people towards pickleball?
The social aspect aside, it’s also cheap and easy to play.
Four courts can fit in the same space as one tennis court
and it requires little more than a net, a paddle and a plastic ball.
The sport is also getting younger.
USA Pickleball says growth among players under 55 has recently exploded
and sports providers are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for courts.
(William Shin, Post-baccalaureate fellow in cancer biology) "You know, I told myself, you know, I'm going to first start out with pickleball and then I'll transition back to tennis, since I've haven't played tennis for such a long time. But, you know, ever since then, I've only stuck with pickleball and I've completely ditched tennis."
(Gary Lieberman, Retired podiatrist) “I am a golfer, but I sometimes now make make excuses why I can't make it to the golf course because I don't want to miss a day of pickleball. I play almost every day."
(Cheryl Sun, Pickleball player) "Well, when I play, I feel like I'm on a vacation. That's really what it is. Yeah, it is my vacation every day.”
Pickleball is also becoming a spectator sport.
There’s currently a pro pickleball tour, with some matches airing on ESPN.
The sport is increasingly attracting corporate sponsors and fans are pushing for it to be included in the Olympics.
“So do I see it overtaking tennis? I think it's just another racket sport that's out there. And yeah, maybe in popularity it will take over tennis at some point. But remember, it comes back to business also. Is it the business of driving revenue or is it the business of finding something that you can do that gives you hope and inspiration and enjoyment basically to play this sport? And I think that's what pickleball is.”