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Is Pickleball a College Sport? Are There Scholarships Available? Where?

A young woman with pink shirt playing pickleball.

Yes, pickleball can be a college sport, although it does not have the same college sport status that many other sports have. Still, it is a sport that is played by millions all over the United States.

Among many of the highest rated pickleball players are college students. There are also scholarships available all over the country for college students that want to go to school with some money earned from loving pickleball.

That said, all college scholarships and grants for pickleball are not created equal. For some, you only need to write an essay, for others, you need to have some pickleball tournaments on your resume.

At the same time, you may be able to play pickleball while you are in college, but it is not currently offered at every school as a recreational or competitive sport. If you are a teen or a parent of one, and want to learn about pickleball in college, find out more about that here.

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Yes, pickleball is a college sport, and there are many colleges and universities where you can play pickleball

Couple playing pickleball on an open court.

Pickleball tournaments in colleges in the United States are not very common. The first recorded one was held in 2017 at Southern Utah University where the college competed against Dixie State for a total of 60 different games and matches. The home team advantage took place here, where Southern Utah University won the first Western Collegiate Team Pickleball Tournament (WCTP).

At the same time, many colleges play pickleball recreationally. At the College of Charleston in South Carolina, there is a recreational pickleball group that plays every Wednesday. In this setting, both students and staff get involved in the game of pickleball. These games were started by the Campus Recreation Services of the school.

If you are looking for more serious pickleball playing at the college level, there are a number of universities and colleges that will offer it. A group known as USA Collegiate Pickleball has been organized in order to bring college and university students together to enjoy the game of pickleball.

This group has a unique set of rules for some events in pickleball. There is cumulative team scoring here where every point matters, and a simplified pickleball rating system. Tournaments are run, and this group can help you find the schools that are hosting them. At present, the following schools are hosting tournaments:

  • Auburn
  • Texas Tech
  • Texas A & M
  • North Carolina State
  • Lindenwood University
  • Robert Morris University
  • Southern Utah University
  • Dixie State
  • College of Charleston
  • Dakota Collegiate
  • University of Minnesota
  • George Mason University
  • Lehigh University
  • Grand Valley State
  • Lipscomb University
  • Butler University
  • Cal State Northridge
  • Western Michigan University
  • VCU
  • Xavier University
  • University of Virginia
  • Rider University

After the first recorded tournament in 2017, the sport of pickleball in college has grown. It is likely going to grow even more from here. In addition to playing at college, there are pickleball scholarships available all over the country, in a number of different ways.

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You don’t need to be a pickleball player to apply to the Pickleball Pad Scholarship

A woman trying hard to hit the pickleball.

The Pickleball Pad Scholarship is one of the most popular, and also one of the most competitive college pickleball scholarships available.

You do not need to show pickleball ratings or tournament success, but you do need to be a current undergraduate or graduate student at a college or university, medical school, or technical or business school in the United States, United Kingdom, or in Australia. You can also be registered to attend one of these organizations as well.

There is a minimum GPA for this, and that is a 3.0 GPA. A project must be completed for the application, and that is usually a 1,200 word essay on the topic listed on the Pickleball Pad Scholarship website. The deadline for this $1,000 scholarship is typically in the early fall of the school year.

The Pickleball Legacy Scholarship Foundation (PLSF) offers scholarship for youth that compete in pickleball tournaments regularly

Pickleball players playing in the open court.

The PLSF is a non-profit organization that takes in donations and grants for themselves in order to provide donations and grants to youth that play pickleball. The PLSF also has their own fundraising as well that allows them to provide pickleball scholarships and awards to the youth that may qualify. The PLSF awards scholarships to qualifying doubles teams at qualifying events.

The Board of Directors of the PLSF determines the qualifying events annually. The US Open Pickleball Championships is often the first qualifying event every year. Students seeking this scholarship can register for the tournaments on the PLSF website, and also apply for the scholarships and grants on the website as well.

The best way to get recognized and stand apart from the competition with these scholarships is to do well at pickleball tournaments. It is not necessary that the tournaments be recognized nationally, but it is a good idea to have some demonstrable tournament experience when you are applying for these grants.

The United States Pickleball Association (USAP) offers grants to youth and communities with collegiate intentions

The United States Pickleball Association is active in providing scholarships and grants to youth pickleball players that are headed to college.  The two grants that they provide are the Youth & Collegiate Grant and the Community Grant.

You can apply individually to either of these grants, but must do so through a USAP Youth Program Provider (YPP) and also through an official college or university program.

For community grants, the USAP offers groups the opportunity to apply for grants that will help organizations to add pickleball programs into their communities. Communities are required to use the funding for a location for their pickleball program. For college students, grants from the USAP are $350.00 and are $250.00 for community grants.

Individual and local pickleball clubs are a great place to start looking for pickleball scholarships

Pickleball court after the rain on sunset.

If you are having a hard time finding pickleball scholarships, a good place to start is often your local pickleball club. Even if your local pickleball club does not offer them directly, your club can help direct you to scholarships in your area. You may also be interested in joining clubs that offer scholarship programs, and may want to begin that search a year or two before you join.

In Surprise, Arizona, for example, there is a pickleball club that offers annual awards. If you live in Arizona and want to be part of a pickleball club or community that offers scholarships, the Surprise Pickleball Club may be able to help. They offer the Tommy Wong Memorial Tournament prizes as well as an annual scholarship.

That is just one example of the many different kinds of ways to get a scholarship more locally, and this may be a way to get one where there is less competition. Still, with millions of people in the sport, and many of them youth, every pickleball scholarship or grant is going to be as competitive as the courts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Pickleball Scholarships

Is pickleball in the NCAA?

No, pickleball is not in the NCAA. If you want to play pickleball at the college level, it will not be formally through the NCAA. There are however many colleges and universities that offer it in the recreation programs. Some of those are listed here.

If you are serious about playing pickleball after high school, do your research to determine where the colleges are that offer pickleball through their recreation departments.

How old do I need to be to start pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that is a cross between ping pong, badminton, and tennis, and was invented for families in 1965. Any age can play pickleball. To join the United States Association of Pickleball you need to be 19 years old. However, if you are younger, you can join a Junior Club for pickleball in your area.

Do you need a specific pickleball rating to get a pickleball scholarship?

Generally speaking, no, you do not need a pickleball rating to get a pickleball scholarship but this answer will be specific to the individual scholarship. There may be pickleball scholarships that are skills based, in which case you will need a pickleball rating.