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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Is Tennis Thawing To Pickleball?

Love will thaw a frozen heart...

Past articles have regularly discussed the antipathy shown by tennis toward pickleball. The tennis industry and players seemed to dismiss pickleball as a fringe sport that could be ignored. To a large extent, this was driven by the view that pickleball would be competitors. The 2 sports would compete for valuable public and private resources - land and investment dollars. They would compete for players - tennis coaches would lose students and clubs would lose members. 

But there has been a thawing of the relationship in recent years. The tennis business has stagnated at best and actually declined in many areas. Tennis facilities and managers are now viewing pickleball as a potential life-saver. The current issue of Tennis Industry Magazine has several articles on the topic. I will summarize these below but a full reading is well worth your time.

The magazine starts its coverage by featuring pickleball on its cover with the title The Potential of Pickleball. Its first content, though, starts with a show Editor's Note that really tells the story. It is called Sharing the Spotlight - Let’s get past the perceived divide between tennis and pickleball. A couple of highlights include:
For many in our industry, pickleball is providing opportunities that seem to have stalled out in tennis. Court builders are building and lining pickleball courts. Facilities are responding to members and the community by offering pickleball. Often, facility owners tell me it’s the addition of pickleball that is helping keep them in the black. Don’t be surprised if traditional tennis teaching groups start offering education for pickleball pros...
It's time to leave behind the divide - or rather, what people perceive as a divide—and focus on the commonalities between tennis and pickleball, and the ways they can complement one another. Keeping consumers active, pro shops busy and people in clubs and on the courts are goals we all share.
There is room in this world for both tennis and pickleball - and providers and consumers of both will benefit.

The first content article is titled Market ForcesAs pickleball continues to grow in the U.S., tennis businesses can also realize big gains. The focus of this article is on equipment that can be sold by tennis shops - paddles and balls. The article is very much oriented to introduce tennis industry professionals to the retail opportunities. There is not a lot about equipment that we pickleballers do not already know so I will not include much here. A few comments are worth noting though"
The sport is aerobic, easy to learn and, as it’s grown, it has created sales opportunities for retailers, facilities and manufacturers. Importantly for the industry, new players and more courts require new equipment...
Head Product Manager Ben Simons says new players will probably want to start on the lighter side, with a paddle that provides enough power to help them hit deep serves and returns. “As new players learn better stroke mechanics and different shots, they may go to a paddle with a more balanced level of power and control,” he says. Advanced players will look for the materials and shapes that provide a balance of feel and power, while also making sure the weight will allow them to hang in on extended points and matches without undue strain...
“People think about balls as ‘indoor vs. outdoor,’ but balls really relate to the playing surface,” says Pickleball Central CEO Edward Hechter. “Tournament players want a high-performance, faster, livelier ball that allows them to demonstrate their skill; newer and lower skilled players enjoy the ease of play with a softer ball. So we are seeing more differentiation in the type of ball used based on the level of player.”...
“Don’t just bring in inventory and hang it on the wall and expect it to sell. Pickleball is a social game and community-driven in most areas. A retailer should get involved in the pickleball community. Find out where most of the play takes place. Let the community know that you are in the pickleball business.”
On Monday, I will cover 2 more articles in the magazine including court and training opportunities.

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