On a brisk Saturday morning, cars begin to fill into the parking lot of a neighborhood park. The crowd heads for the tennis courts, but not to play tennis. Instead, they are there to play pickleball.
It's not an uncommon sight to see around Albuquerque. According to Pickleheads, a pickleball directory, the tennis-like game is the fastest growing sport in the United States and currently sits as one of the most popular with 36.5 million players.
Professional pickleball player and the face of the Major League Pickleball organization, Kamryn Blackwood, is even from right here in New Mexico
"What we've really observed, particularly Albuquerque and the southwest region, is that a combination of favorable climate,and space to build courts, along with an active population, and just the overall growth in sport has just been an explosion and interest in facilities and events, tournaments, ways that people can get involved in this," Co-founder of Pickleheads, Brandon Mackie, said.
According to data from Pickleheads, In the last three years pickleball's popularity has grown by an average of 154.6%. And in a sport that has largely been dominated by middle-aged people, 18-34 year-olds are now the largest age range of players.
According to Mackie, for the first time, the average age of pickleball players dropped below 40 years old, something he credits to the Covid-19 pandemic and social media.
"That was a time where a lot of people were locked indoors and had no way to socialize outdoors and had no way to get activity. And pickleball I think became a big outlet for a lot of young people in particular. And then young people using social media... I think really helped the sport spread like wildfire," Mackie said.
Along with the boom in players, the market for pickleball materials, has seen an uptick. The paddle market was worth $152..8 million in 2021 and is expecting a 7.7% compound annual growth rate through 2028.
Mackie said that pickleball is less technical than tennis and is more affordable. "I think pickleball is just a lot more accessible, like it doesn't have this country club mentality," he said.
Paddles can be found online or in sporting goods stores. A quick search online yields results for sets of balls and paddles for as low as $30.
Once you've got your equipment, Mackie said that Pickleheads' video demonstrations provide techniques and give prospective players a "primer" before they get onto the court.
"The best way to learn is just to get out and go to an open play. And an open play, you don't need to coordinate with anybody. You can just show up and get paired with people at your skill level," Mackie said. He went on to say that Pickleheads can also help players locate local groups and courts near them as well.
"You'll find a really welcoming community. And you're sure to have a good time," Mackie said.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here