Pickleball: The Fastest-Growing Sport in America

The Rise of Pickleball in Denver

Pickleball, the fast-paced paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, has seen a significant surge in popularity in recent years. According to the local racquet and paddle sports outfitter, Game-Set-Match, pickleball participation in America nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, with a three-year growth total of 158.6 percent. Denver is no exception to this trend, as the sport has gained a substantial following in the city.

The Rise of Pickleball During the Pandemic
Pickleball’s rise in popularity predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but it experienced a significant boom during the public health crisis. With its outdoor nature, inherent social distancing, and low barriers to entry, pickleball became an ideal sport for people looking for recreational activities during lockdowns. A survey conducted by Game-Set-Match in 2023 revealed that half of its respondents played pickleball, with 58.5 percent intending to play the sport that year. What was once considered a casual “beer sport” has now evolved into a serious and competitive endeavor, with a U.S. Open dedicated to pickleball.

Breaking Stereotypes
Contrary to common stereotypes, pickleball is not just a toned-down version of tennis or a sport for seniors. Many mainstream professional athletes, including tennis stars like Kim Clijsters and Nick Kyrgios, as well as household names from other sports like LeBron James, Kevin Love, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, have invested in major league pickleball. The sport’s popularity is further evident by the expansion of major league pickleball from 12 to 16 teams this year.

Affordability and Accessibility
One of the appeals of pickleball is its affordability and accessibility. Compared to other sports, pickleball requires minimal equipment—you only need a paddle, some balls, and a place to play. According to Game-Set-Match’s general manager, Rachel Heise, pickleball is easy to learn and suitable for people of all ages. While not everyone may go on to become a professional pickleball player, anyone can have fun and enjoy a reasonably competitive game.

Essentials for Playing Pickleball
If you’re interested in picking up pickleball, there are a few essentials you’ll need. Pickleball paddles range from inexpensive wooden paddles to high-quality graphite models. Game-Set-Match offers a variety of paddles at different price points, with the option to try them out through their demo program. Additionally, you’ll need pickleballs, which come in indoor and outdoor variations. Indoor pickleballs are larger, while outdoor pickleballs are smaller and more vibrant.

Finding Pickleball Courts in Denver
Denver offers various outdoor pickleball courts, including those located at the Northfield Athletic Complex, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Skyland Park, and more. These courts are free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Denver Parks and Recreation also has indoor courts in rec centers across the city. However, due to noise and parking complaints, there is a moratorium on play at the popular pickleball spot, Congress Park. Plans for more courts at Sloan’s Lake Park and Rosamond Park are also currently on hold.

Opportunities for Learning and Competition
If you’re interested in learning pickleball or improving your skills, Denver Parks and Recreation offers a variety of classes and clinics, suitable for beginners and advanced players alike. Additionally, pickleball leagues and tournaments provide opportunities for competitive play. Pickleball bars, such as Pickleball Food Pub and upcoming establishments like Chicken N Pickle and 3rd Shot Pickleball, offer a unique blend of sports and dining experiences.

Join the Pickleball Craze
Pickleball’s rapid rise in popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a complete beginner, pickleball offers an exciting and accessible sport for people of all ages and skill levels. With numerous courts available and a vibrant pickleball community, now is the perfect time to grab a paddle and join the pickleball craze in Denver.

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