Why Pickleball Is Still Growing and Will Continue To - 27 East

Why Pickleball Is Still Growing and Will Continue To

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Playing pickleball in Juno Beach, Florida.

Playing pickleball in Juno Beach, Florida.

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From The Outside with Scott Green

  • Publication: East Hampton Press
  • Published on: Mar 15, 2023
  • Columnist: Scott Green

Just over a year ago, when I started Around the Post Pickleball, we had a plan to brand our name, take it slow and get the word out. We had controllable goals: Run a tournament or two, give some lessons and show the pickleball playing community that we were serious, organized and ready to help expand the game to the East End of Long Island.

In just a year’s time, we have held three very successful tournaments, one of them in our state’s capital, which received major news coverage for the region; taught over 450 people how to play pickleball; had photo ops with the mayor of New York City; hosted playing and teaching with high-profile sports agents and owners of Major League Baseball teams and state politicians; and held a free clinic, which brought over 100 players to Hampton Bays High School on a hot August Monday.

But, most importantly, it brought us to you, the local player, looking to learn a new sport or compete and make new friends.

When a new student comes to one of our lessons or clinics, a series of questions is always asked. What is your sports background? Any physical limitations we should be aware of? Am I, or our certified instructors, allowed to touch you during the lesson? Can I curse a little? (No one ever said no … LOL!)

And, finally, why do you want to play pickleball?

Until recently, the answers were a similar few: “It looks like fun and I need the exercise.” “I used to play tennis, and this looks like tennis, so I should be good at it.” Answers along those lines.

But in just under a year, the answer to that question is changing with familiar regularity. And that answer is: “My friends are playing it.”

The fear of being left out of a social group is frightening to a lot of people. It’s self-imposed peer pressure to remain visible and viable socially, especially for older players, even if they don’t have the physical aptitude or sports background to feel they can compete on the court. They don’t want to be left out of the social atmosphere that surrounds pickleball.

It’s what makes the game so popular. In Southampton, every Friday night, there is a group of picklers going out and enjoying each other’s company with a “Dinks and Drinks” group. I started “Pickle and Pasta” in the West Village last year at my favorite city restaurant, next to a park that people were playing at. It was a natural fit.

It’s the reason why I think this game with the crazy name will continue to grow at astounding rates. The former athlete is still coming to try pickleball, and always will. Even the disgruntled tennis players are starting to turn up. But the player who sees his friends having fun playing a simple game with a very shallow learning curve? They are the next wave.

The good news is that they can be taught how to play fun, social pickleball. They may never achieve 4.0 skill level status, and that’s fine — let the competing players go there. Not everybody needs to be a champion.

So I predict that the game will continue to grow leaps and bounds. Which brings us to the next question: Where are we going to play?

I hope to have some answers to that question next month. I am writing this article while on a quick vacation in the Netherlands. Tomorrow, I have a meeting with a pickleball group in Amsterdam to find a suitable place to play for an overseas destination clinic and tournament.

The game is reaching the world!

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