Everything you need to know about this special occasion ahead of Major League Pickleball’s $100,000 finale this weekend
For a rapidly growing subset of sports enthusiasts across the globe, it’s time to note an increasingly special occasion: World Pickleball Day.
If you’ve never played the sport, you might be wondering just what on earth World Pickleball Day is and why it’s a thing to be commemorated in the first place. Well, hop aboard.
Welcome to the fastest-growing sport in all of America. USA Pickleball announced in Feb. 2022 that there are more than 4.8 million participants in the sport stateside, boasting a growth rate of 39.3% over the past two years — and it’s beginning to spread its wings worldwide.
Here’s what you need to know about this rising phenomenon.
What is pickleball?
Pickleball is a mix of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong — played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-size court and a slightly modified tennis net that stands 34 inches high in the middle and 36 inches at the edges. Each player uses a paddle and volleys a plastic ball that contains between 26 and 40 circular holes, either in doubles or singles formats much like tennis. As with ping-pong, only the serving player or team can score a point. A “no-volley zone” is observed within seven feet of the net on either side of the court.
Considering that there’s much less sprinting between the lines than tennis and a greater emphasis on hand-eye coordination by comparison, the game is popular among players of all ages.
For a deeper exploration of the rules and standards of pickleball, click here to read more courtesy of Boardroom’s Kenny Ducey.
Why all this hype?
Pickleball grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic when most people were stuck inside their homes and/or limited to social distancing sports… like pickleball.
“You’ll see Drew Brees playing pickleball. We have President George W. Bush playing pickleball, and his daughter, Jenna,” USA Pickleball’s Laura Gainor told Boardroom in January. “You just keep seeing names of celebrities and athletes that are now picking up the sport.”
NBA referee Scott Foster set up a pickleball court in one of the courtyards at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort when the NBA went into a “bubble.”
NBA and team staffers, cameramen, public address announcers, photographers, security, statisticians, National Basketball Players Association employees, reporters — quite literally everyone played it.
And things simply took off from there.
Oh, did they ever.
Later this week in Columbus, Ohio, the best of the best will play for a $100,000 purse — the largest in the sport — in the year’s final Major League Pickleball tournament. The games will be hosted at venue/restaurant Pickle & Chill.
MLP Columbus, taking place Oct. 14-16, is a three-day tournament with 48 players playing for 12 teams.
Each match consists of four games (women’s doubles, men’s doubles, and two mixed doubles). It turns into a singles tiebreaker match, if necessary. The finals will be aired live on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 16.
The league is booming with new investors, with LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Draymond Green, and Kevin Love among the recent notable names to join the fray. With that sort of crossover appeal, expect the trendline of this emerging sport to continue to grow.
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