Memories of Pickleball and a Surprising Resurgence

By Brenna Kehew Sculley

by Elliot Derhay

I first heard about pickleball way back in 2004, my sophomore year of high school in Rhode Island. A random sport we played in gym class, that got unexpectedly popular as surly teenagers found joy in the game. Honestly, I’m not very athletic, so the game was somewhat lost on me, but the name was memorable, and I had fun times in the stands cheering on this silly named sport.

Imagine my surprise when suddenly pickleball is the trendiest thing at the park. Surely you’ve seen the headlines. Few sports in American History have experienced a meteoric rise quite like pickleball. Born out of suburban ingenuity in 1965, the game has transcended its backyard origins to become a nationwide sensation. Pickleball is everywhere.

Pickleball’s allure lies in its accessibility. Combining elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, it offers a low-impact, easy-to-learn alternative for people of all ages and skill levels. Its compact court size and simplified rules make it particularly appealing to older adults, fostering a sense of camaraderie and fitness among retirees and active aging communities, noise complaints notwithstanding.

Megan and her husband Justin Estrada at their wedding pickleball tournament

I reached out to my most iconic pickleball-loving-friend Megan Estrada, for whom pickleball featured prominently as a pre-wedding activity in her recent gorgeous nuptials in Meridian, Mississippi. She shared with me her love for the game and what makes it so fun as a group activity.

“I’s super easy to pick up, hard to get good at. But, I’ve got my whole life to get better since I can play till… well, forever!”

Fueling its ascent is a burgeoning competitive scene, with tournaments attracting skilled players and spectators alike. Media exposure, from televised coverage to viral social media posts, has further propelled pickleball into the mainstream consciousness.

Infrastructure development has kept pace with demand, with dedicated courts springing up in parks and community centers nationwide. This expansion ensures that pickleball enthusiasts, both seasoned players and curious newcomers, have ample opportunities to partake in the sport’s infectious energy.

As the pickleball craze continues to sweep the nation, it stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of grassroots innovation and communal recreation in American culture. Are you looking for something low key to keep you active? Perhaps you can join the gang and come to learn that pickleball is popular for good reason.

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