FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Pickle Up: Get in on America’s Fastest Growing Sport

by Bianca Dumas

Feb 23, 2024

© Robert Hills | Dreamstime.com

February 2024

Early on, pickleball had something to do with pickles. Pickles the dog, that is. In one story, the game was named for a family dog that ran off with the ball between sets.

The origin of the name is disputed, but the origin of the sport is not. In 1965, three dads, including Washington State Rep. Joel Pritchard, wanted to help their kids combat summer boredom, so they went to gather up the equipment needed for a game of badminton. Finding none, they improvised with ping pong paddles and a whiffle ball, coming up with a game that combined tennis, badminton and ping pong. That’s where the competing story for the game’s name comes in: The mismatched collection of equipment and rules made Mrs. Pritchard think of a pickle boat — a crew of mismatched members in a rowing competition.

That family game caught on and is now the fastest-growing sport in America, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles, indoors or out. The rules are simple, and game play lasts only to 11 points. While you can really exert yourself playing, it’s nothing like running across a court and leaping into the air for a tennis ball, making it a true lifelong sport.

“There’s almost no age restriction,” said Devan Egan, owner and co-founder, Club Pickleball USA. “In other sports someone who’s really good will have a hard time having fun playing with someone who’s brand-new. Whereas in pickleball, the skilled player still has a good time with the beginner.” He credits pickleball’s short learning curve and inexpensive equipment for its welcoming character.

Even renowned tennis pros are getting in on pickleball. In 2023 John McEnroe said, “Pickleball sucks,” but found himself playing in a doubles tournament later that year. Pickleball Slam pitted McEnroe and Michael Chang against Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick for a $1 million purse, which Agassi and Roddick took home. On Feb. 4, 2024, Pickleball Slam 2 will match McEnroe and Maria Sharapova against Agassi and Stephanie Graf live on ESPN, with an amateur slam in the days preceding.

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