Let’s back up. When did pickleball get so popular?
In March 2012 pickleball interest started picking up in North America. Not meteoric interest growth yet but the rumblings were afoot. Interestingly, this was around the time I started playing. Coincidence? I think not.
In March 2014 it started growing faster and faster.
Fast forward to March 2021 and that’s when it blasted off big time. Growth in 2022 is even more impressive.
Don’t take my word for it. Check out the trends chart:
The question is how much more will pickleball grow in popularity?
That’s impossible to answer with any certainty but my hunch, given the many reasons it is so popular that it’ll continue growing a-plenty for a few more years. Here’s why.
Why is pickleball so popular?
I’m surprised it took so long for pickleball to become so popular given the following reasons.
1. Play almost anywhere
One of our neighbors created a pickleball court on the street. It’s awesome. Neighbors are welcome to use it. It cost very little other than some paint, a net and of course paddles and balls.
You can also play on tennis courts, of which many towns offer many options.
Heck, our driveway is big enough for a pickleball court. I just might set one up (without the lines… a good practice court).
2. Easier than tennis
The ball moves slower. Paddles are lighter than tennis rackets. Generally-speaking, it’s easier to hit the ball over the net and have it land in bounds than tennis.
3. Play indoors in any old gym
Several community centers in our area offer pickleball hours in the gyms. Because the court is smaller than a tennis court, you can set up pickleball courts in pretty much any gym using volleyball court lines.
Not only can it be widely played outdoors but it’s also easily accessible indoors in many communities as well.
4. Easy for kids to learn
It’s a heck of a lot easier to rally in pickleball than tennis which makes it easier for kids to pick up, play and have fun. Our oldest plays tennis but it wasn’t easy for him in the beginning. I too remember that tennis was hard to learn.
Kids get frustrated with tennis because it is hard to control the ball. Not so with pickleball.
5. Because it’s widely played year-round, it’s easy to find folks for a game
The more popular pickleball becomes, the more popular it becomes because the easier it is to find someone to play whether at a community center, public tennis courts or in the neighborhood.
6. Baby boomers love it
For same reasons it’s a great and easy sport for kids to pick up, older folks like it as well. Again, ligher paddle, slower ball, play year-round and play pretty much anywhere.
7. Inexpensive to play
This is a biggie. It’s not like golf where you have drop $50 to $100 to play. Once you have a paddle and ball (inexpensive) you can play for free on public courts or a few bucks at a community center.
In a nutshell, it costs nothing or little to access courts. The equipment costs very little compared to so many other sports.
8. Versatile sport: singles or doubles?
It’s versatile. You only need two people but if have a group of four, you can also play doubles. It’s not like baseball or hockey or soccer where you need a larger group of people.
9. Play a short while or long?
You can go out and bang the ball around for 15 to 20 minutes and have a short game or play a series of games. Again, it’s a flexible sport that you can squeeze in if only a short amount of time to play or make an afternoon of it.
Pickleball clubs are popping up everywhere
Actually, this is in response to growing popularity but it will feed popularity at the same time. As more clubs pop up, there are more opportunities for people to play. It’s a self-fueling growth process.
10. It’s great exercise (but doesn’t have to be super intense)
I play every racket sport out there – tennis, squash, racketball, badminton and of course pickleball. I can tell you that pickleball is as good of a workout as any of them. Okay, squash is more intense just because you don’t have to chase balls over as large of a court so there’s less rest time in between points. However, pickleball is definitely excellent exercise. Play hard and you will get your heart rate in any zone you wish.
Just how popular is pickleball? Is pickleball more popular than tennis?
Popularity is measured in many ways but one of my favorite measuring sticks is figuring out how many times something is searched every month in Google. That’s a pretty good barometer of how popular it is.
Pickleball is searched approximately 530,000 times per month in the USA on Google. Compare that with volleyball (295,000), tennis (244,000), badminton (147,000) and ping pong (58,000).
Check out our pickleball popularity chart comparing pickleball popularity to similar sports:
I have to admit that when I researched the numbers, I was surprised pickleball was that much more popular than tennis. Who knew?