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What is Pickleball?

This is a question I get asked a lot!



Pickleball- The Fastest Growing Sport in the USA


Even though the sport is gaining worldwide recognition, there are still a lot of people who do not know what is is. In 2020, 4.2 million people played pickleball in the U.S., up from 3.46 million in 2019, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA) 2021 Topline Participation Report, released in February 2021.


Basically, pickleball is a paddle sport. And it combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. A plastic whiffle type ball with holes in it is used. The court is smaller than a traditional tennis court. In fact, one tennis court can be converted to 2 to 4 pickleball courts. This means a lot more folks can play at one time.


Come With Friends or By Yourself


One difference from tennis is pickleball often tends to be more of a group activity. The rec centers in El Paso have scheduled days and times for open play. What this means is we take turns. When one group finishes a game ( usually about 15 minutes long) people who are waiting get to have a turn. Each rec center has it's own rules as to how this occurs. But the idea is that everyone gets equal opportunity to play and have fun.


Pickleball is Great for the Over 50 Crowd


Pickleball has been wildly popular with retirees. With a smaller court less running is involved than in tennis. But don't get me wrong, you can work up a good sweat playing the game. The game is easy to learn allowing players without any paddle or racquet experience to learn the game quickly. ( I started at 65 without ever having played ANY sport, even as a child)


But It's Not Just Popular With the Older Folks


According to USA Pickleball,

The average age for all players is 38.1 years old

  • The average age for Core players is 47.5 and Casual players 33.6 years old

  • 60% of Core players are 55 or older

  • 79% of Casual players are 54 or younger

  • From 2016-2020:

    • the percentage of Core players ages 54 and younger grew from 40% to 46%

    • the percentage of Casual players ages 54 and younger grew from 79% to 80%

    • these increases in the percentages of both Core and Casual players less than 55 years of age reflect faster growth among younger players

In fact, PGA golf professional Michael Putnam plays regularly with his buddies and San Diego Padre teammates play pickleball during spring training.



In fact, in El Paso we are seeing more younger people show up at the pickleball courts every day. Many younger people report that they work for themselves or from home. This allows them to have a more flexible schedule. Taking a few hours off in the morning for a lively game of pickleball is good for productivity they tell me.


But to Me Pickleball is So Much More Than Just a Game


At age 65 I moved to El Paso during the height of the pandemic. The city was still pretty shut down with even most restaurants closed. It was a challenging time for me and my husband to say the least. We knew pretty much no one except my son, his wife and two grandkids. And we found out when we arrived that they would be moving 2000 miles away one year later. I found myself experiencing depression and anxiety like I never had before.


I Knew I Had To Do Something To Pull Us Out Of This Funk


Sitting around watching TV all day was not how either of us wanted to live our life. We went on a lot of hikes but this did not help us to meet people. And we desperately needed social connections.


A friend back in Houston constantly talked about pickleball and how much fun it was. I decided I would give it a try. Trying to find where to go to learn how to play was quite a challenge in El Paso. Most of the information was outdated and the locations no longer operating. ( This is why I later created the Facebook Group Pickleball El Paso. I wanted to make sure that others could find where to play pickleball in El Paso)


Thank Goodness For Facebook and Ben


Finally, through a Facebook group I connected with Ben Avalos. ( See his article The History of Pickleball in El Paso) Ben met my husband and I at Gary Palacio Recreational Center in east El Paso and taught us the basics. And he introduced us to a group of ladies there who were just starting to learn the game also. I will forever give immense gratitude to Ben. I am not sure if he realizes how much he changed the course of our life here in El Paso with this simple game called Pickleball.


What Is Pickleball to Me?



Sure pickleball is a game. And for some people it is all about the win. But for me "the win" is the friendships I have made and the fun I have had. Doug and I are getting good exercise and now have a social life as well. For me that is a win/win!





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