Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Pickleball Boom vs Tennis Boom

We're sneaking up on them...

As I have previously written, I (and others) are planning a pickleball tournament. One of the tasks is researching reasons why sponsors should participate. I will post some of the more interesting articles I find. This one is a comparison of the tennis boom of the 1970's to today's pickleball boom. Excerpts are below and the entire article can be found at

How do the pickleball boom and the tennis boom of the 1970s compare?

With Wimbledon just finishing, I found myself comparing the pickleball boom with the great tennis boom. I was in the catbird’s seat of the tennis boom in the early ’70s when Wilson Sporting Goods enjoyed incredible market share in both tennis rackets and tennis balls, and the sales were extraordinary...

Tennis was so popular then that masked gunmen robbed the Los Angeles office of Wilson by gunpoint and took an entire tractor-trailer load of tennis balls because of a national shortage. (The smalltime hoods were soon arrested, when they drove up to a big-box retailer in the tractor-trailer when the news was abuzz about the heist. Dah!)

Celebrity tennis television shows populated TV Guide. Movie stars and television celebrities called regularly for their free rackets. High-end tennis camps grew like mushrooms. Newspaper articles appeared monthly about the shortage of tennis balls, tennis rackets and the 34 million tennis players. Events like Wimbledon had an estimated billion viewers around the globe.

But many of those people in the great tennis boom played tennis only once or twice, and many just wanted to buy a racket, or an expensive Fila Training Suit, and be part of the popularity.

My responsibilities at Wilson focused on subtly influencing the choice of product of the much smaller percentage of those 34 million who were heavy users. I called them “tennis players,” not “people playing tennis.”

It is that small percentage of tennis participants who share a comparison to pickleball. They played two to three times a week, for two to three hours per session. Like pickleball, what were absolute “How to Play” rules of tennis before the tennis boom also kept changing, and then the oversized tennis racket absolutely changed the face of tennis from who played and how it was played.

Like tennis, pickleball growth has also been explosive — so explosive there are only very rough estimates as to how many players there are. It is currently reported on the USAPA website that there were in 2016 an estimated 2.5 million pickleball players and 37 percent of them were playing a minimum eight times a year. I have read other estimates that these numbers are supposed to quickly double and then double again.

When we announce clinics locally, we typically have five to 10 times more participants show up than those pre-registered. My experience is that pickleballers play at least twice a week, sometimes four times a week, for two- to three-hour sessions.

Both are great sports, both have enjoyed participation explosions, but the big growth of tennis was tied to televised tennis, and that was buttressed by celebrity tennis. In fact, one of the pivotal televised matches took place just 30 miles from here, in 1966, in the old Salisbury (Md.) Civic Center on canvas stretched across a wooden floor...

In comparison, pickleball is driven by folks sharing their pickleball experience with friends and neighbors, which explains the much higher participation rate. There has been little television coverage to expand the sport, although YouTube provides much information.

My most interesting observation about the similarities and differences between these hardcore tennis players and pickleballers is noise. If someone is looking for some new tennis court location, they might have to ask directions before they see their courts, but if they are looking for pickleball courts, they can hear the laughter long before seeing the courts.

Boom vs boom. It would be but an educated guess, but the number of very active pickleballers might soon exceed hardcore tennis players. The good fellowship and aerobic benefits from both sports serve our racket-sports community well. Whether pickleball, tennis or any racket sport, take a stroll over to your local court. You will soon pull on your belt cinches and pull that bad boy in — maybe several inches.

1 comment:

  1. Looking back to this post would you say that your predictions were correct? In curious because im making a court in a place were there are no pickleball courts at all.