Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Pickleball Just Keeps Getting Bigger

Frequent readers of my entreVIEW posts (a small but loyal group, no doubt) may recall that earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time before vaccination had become widely available, I wrote this post about my budding enthusiasm for Pickleball. My post detailed how Pickleball had become widely recognized as a perfect “pandemic pastime” and was showing explosive growth as the fastest growing sport in the US. I also detailed some Pickleball-related entrepreneurial ventures.

While I have become a true Pickleball enthusiast and continue to play regularly (having taught at least 50 Pickleball virgins to play), I couldn’t have anticipated that Pickleball was going to rapidly become such big business! I recently saw this article, which details a whole bunch of ways that my new favorite sport (my old favorites are still volleyball and slalom waterskiing) is becoming big business. There are dozens of new companies selling paddles and accessories, hundreds of venues opening around the country, technologists developing software to facilitate Pickleball enthusiasm (court finders, scoring assistants, and even “Tinder-like” apps designed to help you find Pickleball playing partners), along with tournaments and professional Pickleball.
What is really incredible is that many experts are predicting that we’re still just scratching the surface.

  • Currently, while Pickleball continues to have its place as the fastest growing sport in the US, it is still “only” about 25% the size of tennis.
  • Communities all over the country are converting underused tennis courts into Pickleball courts (although, in part because Pickleball is a noisy game, frequently leading to disputes all the way from San Diego to Philadelphia), but that is just the start.
  • You can even watch live matches on network and cable TV, including ESPN and CBS. If you want my opinion, the game is much more fun to play than to watch. The “non-attackable” dink shot is such an important part of the game, but it is slow and not that exciting to watch (although it is difficult to execute consistently); the “pros” often engage in a dozen or more dinks a point before the fast action of the game, which often doesn’t last long.
Even my favorite social media influencers, the Holderness Family, have gotten into the act with The Pickleball Song, this recent video about The Five Stages of Pickleball, and their sold out run of "Pickleball Y'All" T-Shirts. If you don’t know Kim and Penn Holderness, they are the husband and wife who frequently blog and produce clever music videos about life. They also happen to be my favorite team ever on the only reality TV show I watch, the Amazing Race and…spoiler alert…they won!

In case all of that doesn’t get you to believe that the Pickleball craze isn’t more than a passing fad, consider that high profile athletes (like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Kim Clijsters, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James) have all become owners of Major League Pickleball teams (at a reported cost of seven figures)! The league’s founder, Steve Kuhn, said the goal of the league is for the current approximately 5 million Pickleball players in the US to reach 40 million by 2030. In case you are math challenged, that would represent 8x growth in people playing the sport over the next 8 years…a huge growth opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs indeed!

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