In 1965, a family in Washington state owned a dog named Pickle. The family had invented a new game over the holidays, and their dog joined them in retrieving the ball whenever they hit it too far with their paddles. Because of this dog, if the story is true, America’s fastest growing sport has been named.
According to almost everyone, the name “pickleball” is quite awkward. The sport itself is quite remarkable – so remarkable that over 4 million people play the sport in this country. At least 5 million play it worldwide.
Pickleball’s 2-year growth rate was 39% in 2021, according to the most recent report from the USA Pickleball Association. In the metropolitan area alone, there are between 200 and 300 courts. The most spectacular facility is the Missouri Pickleball Club in the Gravois Bluffs area of Fenton, with nearly 20 state-of-the-art courts that are often teeming with wall-to-wall play. There are plans to build similar facilities in St. Charles and Chesterfield.
Perhaps the sport’s biggest selling point is its age range.
“We’ve had groups of 8-year-olds all the way up to 80-year-olds,” says John Kleinschmidt, a pro who plays at the Missouri Pickleball Club. “That’s the best part of this game. There’s a huge equalizing element of, you know, somebody could be in their 50s or 60s and erase the 20s.
The cardiovascular element is also important. You play for at least two hours. It’s a series of stops and starts on a field 44 feet long by 20 feet wide. It’s much more interesting than jogging or riding on a treadmill.