Pickleball’s Growth in 2023
Each year, pickleball continues to rise in popularity. As any pickleball enthusiast likes to say, “Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the world!”
What is pickleball?
Pickleball, at its core, is a fun and exciting sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. The game is played on a court the same size as a badminton court, with a low net similar to those used for tennis, and with what looks like an oversized ping pong paddle and a wiffle ball.
Pickleball’s recent growth
Pickleball is constantly growing and evolving, and there are a number of interesting studies highlighting why it’s so popular.
Here’s a look at some of the most exciting growth facts:
- There are 48.3 million people in the U.S. — nearly 19% of the country’s adult population — that played pickleball at least once in the last year, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals.
- Out of 124 sports tracked, pickleball continued to be America’s fastest-growing sport for the third consecutive year, according to the SFIA report.
- According to USA Pickleball, there are more than 10,700 places to play across the U.S.
- The average age of avid pickleball players (those who play at least once a month) is 34.8, according to the APP study. Since August 2022, there has been an 86% growth in players between the ages of 35 and 44.
- The top five cities for pickleball participation are New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, and San Francisco, according to the APP Study.
- The Professional Pickleball Association became the first to host 25 professional events in a single season and boasted the highest prize purse in a single year, paying out $5.5 million. MLP is paying out an unprecedented $5 million.
What’s caused the growth in pickleball participation?
Where to start…
Tennis players are entering pickleball in record numbers
While certainly not a requirement to be successful in pickleball, there is no denying how tennis experience can pay immediate dividends when starting pickleball. In fact, 18 of the top 20 men’s and women’s doubles players (90%) come from a high-level tennis background. And more and more top tennis players — such as Jack Sock and Genie Bouchard — are announcing a transition into the sport.
Selkirk is proud to have more than 100 sponsored players, including several with extensive tennis backgrounds:
- Catherine Parenteau - The current #2 ranked singles player in pickleball on the PPA Tour first played tennis in the Big 10 conference for Michigan State.
- Jack Sock - A four-time Grand Slam champion and a two-time tennis Olympic medalist, Jack Sock is set to take the pickleball world by storm in 2024. In his debut in 2023, Jack took gold in mixed doubles with his partner Anna Leigh Waters.
- JoAnne Russell - Won Wimbledon doubles in 1977 and was ranked as high as #22 in the world prior to turning pro in pickleball. Joanne currently plays on the pro tour and teaches pickleball in her hometown of Naples, Florida.
- Cammy Macgregor - Former #75 ranked women’s tennis player in the world, Macgregor played professionally from the mid-80s to 1995 in a number of Grand Slams, including reaching the 4th round of the Australian Open in 1986.
For tennis players, there is often a shorter time frame to becoming a high-level pickleball player. In fact, in nearly every singles event on professional tours, there is a “newcomer” from the tennis world that makes a deep tournament run.
Record number of pickleball prize money
The two primary professional tours, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP), have both increased the amount of prize purse payouts handed out to players throughout the year.
For the 2024 season, the APP announced its major tournaments will offer triple the prize money, and primary tour events will offer double the prize money of the 2023 tour events, paying out a minimum of $150,000 per major and $100,000 per primary event.
The multi-year contracts have allowed many players to quit their day jobs and play pickleball full-time, increasing the visibility of the sport.
Corporate interest in pickleball
It didn’t take long for corporate entities to take notice of this booming industry. Big-name players such as Adidas, Michelob Ultra, Fila, Hertz, Carvana, and Hyundai are just a few of the companies investing in pickleball through sponsorship of tournaments and players.
Five years ago, it was difficult to be a professional pickleball player full-time, but now, many players are able to make a living simply through sponsorships! Some players reportedly are making more than six figures from a single sponsorship.
Television broadcasting has also taken notice of the sport, with more broadcasters vying to air the professional tours. Participating channels include ESPN, FOX, CBS, Amazon Prime, and The Tennis Channel.
Celebrities playing pickleball
It’s now commonplace to hear of a big-time celebrity discovering the sport and falling in love! Here are just a few of the celebrities who play the game
- Leonardo Dicaprio plays “every day,” according to Vanity Fair.
- George Clooney admitted his wife, Amal, smokes him in pickleball regularly.
- Survivor winner, Tyson Apostol, has become a pickleball influencer.
- The Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team was spotted playing pickleball in their bullpen.
- Steelers starting linebacker TJ Watt got “whooped” on the courts by Meg, a grandmother from Pennsylvania.
- Ellen Degeneres started her own line of pickleball gear.
- Drew Brees is an owner of a Major League Pickleball Team, the Los Angeles Mad Drops
Not to mention Jamie Foxx, the Kardashians, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Jonathan Van Ness … the list goes on and on.
How to get involved in pickleball
- Get involved in your pickleball community! There are more than 570 pickleball clubs nationwide registered through pickleball’s governing body, USA Pickleball.
- Find a paddle! Selkirk has developed more than 50 paddle designs for players of all skill levels.
- Learn more about the game! Selkirk TV was launched to provide pickleball content to all! Find lessons, highlights, drills, and more for free. Catch up with the lessons on Youtube or the Selkirk TV app.