If you've walked past your local tennis court lately, you might have wondered if someone pulled a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. But in fact, the short net and diminutive court are merely signs that your neighborhood, too, has embraced the latest craze in sports: pickleball.
Despite what its name implies, pickleball has nothing to do with the cucumber-derived food. The game was invented in Seattle in 1965 by three fathers (one of whom had a dog name Pickles, though it's unclear if the pet or the name of the game came first) seeking a way to entertain their children.
The resulting sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It can be played inside or outside, in singles or doubles, and the only pieces of equipment required — aside from the aforementioned net and court — are paddles and a plastic wiffle ball. The rules are simple, and matches — played to 11 points — can be as quick as 15 minutes.
Put it all together — the accessibility, ease, and pace — and throw in a global pandemic that prompted many people to pursue outdoor sports, and it's no wonder pickleball is enjoying a renaissance. According to a report released by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, its popularity swelled by 21.3 percent from 2019 to 2020. Today, with approximately 4.2 million players nationwide, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America.
"The game has developed a passionate following due to its friendly, social nature, and its multi-generational appeal," says Laura Gainor, a representative for USA Pickleball. "The sport brings an opportunity to expand your social circle by simply finding a local pickleball court to jump in on open play games, while also living a healthy and active lifestyle."
"Even if you're not the best athlete, you can play pickleball and enjoy it."
And if you live in the Hamptons or Los Angeles, that social circle could include the likes of the Kardashians or Leonardo DiCaprio. As reported by Vanity Fair, celebrities from George Clooney to Reese Witherspoon are eagerly embracing the sport.
Here at Allure, our paddle fingers started to twitch when we noticed some of our favorite folks in the beauty biz getting into the game. Hourglass Cosmetics founder and CEO Carisa Janes says that for her, the appeal is due in large part to the connections she's made with those from all walks of life: "I love the sense of community," she says. "I've seen players from ages 18 to 80!"
Donna Pohlad, co-founder of hair-care brand dpHUE, plays pickleball at least three times a week, sometimes with her 6-year-old granddaughter. "Even if you're not the best athlete, you can play pickleball and enjoy it," says Pohlad. "I love to hit a killer shot!" In fact, Pohlad is so into the game that dpHUE will serve as the official hair sponsor of the US Open Pickleball Championship 2022.
The only obstacle to getting started yourself may be finding a place to play. Though public pickleball courts are being built more rapidly than ever before (and you can locate one near you by visiting places2play.org), it's almost impossible to keep up with the surge in demand. Gainor suggests taking matters into your own hands: "If there aren't courts near you, you can purchase a portable pickleball net and easily make a court by creating your own court lines in your driveway [or] street."
Or, follow Janes's advice and get to your local courts early — after all, there are four million people eager to play.
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