Pickleball, once considered simply a game that you would play in your yard with a few friends, is lately taking off.
Its popularity has soared over the last few years and there’s a number of reasons for that.
However, with such a newfound popularity, many people are now asking if the sport is ready for a prime time spot.
There certainly is a case for it, but there are also a lot of downsides which we must address too.
So, we’ve written this guide which explores the case in favor of, and against, pickleball being ready for prime time. Read on and find out more.
Pickleball And Its Growth
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, (see also: Where Is Pickleball Island?)Washington and played with a wiffle ball.
Many people describe it as a crossover between tennis, ping-pong and badminton. Even with its humble beginnings, it had somewhat of a cult following.
But these numbers soared over the last decade or so and it became considered as a viable racket sport alternative – one which does not have such stringent entry requirements such as tennis.
Although, despite the fact that you likely will not need as much time to hone your skills as you would with tennis, pickleball is by no means a simple sport to master – which is why becoming a pickleball coach has become a career move for many.
This does not mean that pickleball is reserved for the incredibly fit though.
The nets are lower for pickleball than they are for tennis, meaning that pickleball is an incredibly useful sport for seniors and non-sport enthusiasts, due to a lowered requirement of running.
It’s now wise that we examine why exactly pickleball has grown in popularity so much, which has led to us asking this question to begin with.
Why Has Pickleball’s Popularity Grown?
The USAPA (US Pickleball Association) is the official governing body for pickleball, despite many other players in the field of the sport.
They have claimed that they estimate 4.8 million Americans played pickleball in 2021, and it continues to expand.
However, this did not just occur overnight. So, what were the main factors in the sport’s major growth? Well, here are a few potential reasons for this:
During the pandemic, many Americans (and others around the world for that matter) were looking for an outdoor activity that they could play safely and within the safety guidelines.
Pickleball was a fantastic choice for this.
It allowed people to remain fit and healthy, whilst also staying safe and having a lot of fun at the same time.
In fact, the New York Times said that this was one of the major reasons why people became “picklers”.
A Rivalry With Tennis
The space for pickleball and tennis in many ways is shared, and those who have played tennis for a number of years, especially at a high standard, felt as though (and continue to feel this way) pickleball was encroaching on their territory – figuratively and literally.
This was helped by the fact that a number of ex-tennis players and retired players would engage with pickleball to see what the fuss was all about.
The Move Into Professional Status
As an amateur sport, pickleball was (and is) huge in terms of popularity and as a result, it became viable as a professional sport.
Tournaments across the country offer a lot of money for winners, which means there’s a lot of room to become a professional pickleball player.
Not only this, there are opportunities to work in the sphere of pickleball as a coach, in sales or in the media.
Of course though, the battle continues now to convince everybody that pickleball is not only fun to play, but also fun to watch.
As pickleball is very popular and can be played by anybody, you can find a whole host of celebrities taking up the sport in their own homes.
Of course, due to their reach on things such as social media and mainstream media, this news spread.
Many people took up pickleball to emulate these celebrities, whereas others had never heard of the sport before until celebrities inadvertently endorsed it.
People such as Bill Gates and Matthew Perry have been known to enjoy the sport regularly.
Prime Time Pickleball: The Case For It
Here’s the case for it.
Pickleball still grows in popularity now, and eventually it will be cashed in on.
As we mentioned previously though, this will take a little more time to convince everyone that it is entertaining to watch as well as play.
However, if given a prime time spot – this will almost certainly lead to an exponential growth and, with so many eyes on it, social media and mainstream media will also take note.
As a result, pickleball will likely hold onto its spot and likely be injected with millions of dollars, which could see the sport take off even further.
This could be compared with the growth of previous sports like darts and pool for example.
Indeed, pickleball is already broadcast. CBS Sport Network, ESPN3, Fox Sports and The Tennis Channel either already, or have plans to broadcast pickleball.
With this in mind, we could see a large spike in viewership.
Opportunities For Everyone
As pickleball can be played by everybody, prime time is a perfect spot for it and everyone can benefit from it, but particularly advertisers.
Sport and advertising work hand in hand, but pickleball would be a perfect platform (see also: Is Pickleball Galaxy A Reliable Platform?)to advertise everything.
Anything from toys which are aimed at a target audience of kids and parents to beer and vehicles for adults, advertisers will absolutely love the opportunity in this area.
Not only this, but as a professional sport – many people who would never consider themselves as viable candidates for other sports have a brand new opportunity.
This is also the case for coaches and sport journalists.
Prime Time Pickleball: The Case Against It
Now, let’s look at why it might not be ready for a prime time spot.
Tennis is a long established sport, and they will not take kindly to their sport being encroached on so much (as we mentioned earlier).
It’s entirely possible that tennis enthusiasts will vilify the sport if it is given prime time.
Not Yet Convinced Others To Watch
Despite its popularity, the sport still needs to convince others that it is fun to watch as well as play. This could be a difficult task.
Lack Of Clarity = Lack Of Money
Despite the USAPA being established, there are many bodies out there that claim to be the “official” body of pickleball or another such established entity for the sport.
As a result, money has been tight in terms of tournament earnings.
Without a clearly defined sport “hierarchy”, it’s going to be difficult to see growth financially and this might worry some advertisers.
Pickleball is still growing, and while many claim it to be ready for prime time, there’s still problems present. However, we think that it will not be long until we see the sport in a prime time spot!