Ok, I've tried it. It's fun. Sadly, I'm probably going to start playing this lame sport and make new friends...socialize. Be like everybody else.
I need to sit down. I think I'm going to vomit.
One Thing Americans Can Agree On? Pickleball
Nine WSJ readers from across the country share why the tennis-badminton-ping-pong hybrid has proven so popular
RAIN GAME Courtney Campbell (left) and her friend Carly Bellis, seen here during an unsporting bit of weather, enjoyed playing pickleball so much during the pandemic that they founded Swinton, a pickleball clothing and equipment company.
By Gretchen TarrantFollow
Oct. 17, 2022 11:00 am ET
From TikTok dances to sourdough bread to DIY home decor, many pandemic hobbies were abandoned as quickly as they spread. But that’s not the case with pickleball, a favorite that has not only endured but become the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. The game serves as a source of community for many, including WSJ readers of all locations and ages. When we asked them to comment on their love of the sport, the feedback was notable. Below, a lightly edited version of nine readers’ responses.
Anna Garwood, Brooklyn, N.Y., 43
“I’ve lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for almost 6 years. In late summer 2021, I noticed spray-painted lines on the side of the giant asphalt surface next to the tennis courts in McCarren Park. Turns out, someone had drawn a pickleball court during the pandemic and had only played on it a handful of times. As a former tennis player, I’ve found it very frustrating to get court time in the city, so I decided to buy a pickleball net and started gathering friends to play. Every time I set up the net, people would stop and ask about the sport. After a few weeks, I had collected a couple dozen phone numbers of locals who were interested in playing. There are a lot of people in my phone with the last name ‘Pickleball.’ It seemed like half of Williamsburg was interested in playing! I started an Instagram account @williamsburgpickleball in Spring 2022 and began hosting open plays. By the summer, more courts were drawn, and by October, the IG account now has almost 1k followers. Every open play has turned into a social event, with 4-6 courts going. It’s been a blast!”
Steve Coleman, Bellevue, Wash., 68
“I’m a tennis player who lost his wheels from years of hard-court play. My wife and I have started playing pickleball at the Bellevue Community Center three times a week, and it more than covers the competitive and social aspects we were getting from our tennis.”
Robin Sandberg, Boca Raton, Fla., 60
“A Wednesday-morning pickleball group was formed when we all met at a clinic in Boca Raton, Fla., this past January. We are all such good friends now and would never have met if it hadn’t been for pickleball.”
Anthony Nunziata prepping for what he calls a “double-header”: that is, a pro pickleball tournament during the day, a performance at night.
PHOTO: ANTHONY NUNZIATA
Anthony Nunziata, Nashville, Tenn., 38
“I’m a professional singer-songwriter and now a part-time tournament pro/5.0 pickleballer. It’s the perfect game to play for fun or more competitively. It’s a game of camaraderie. It’s become a passion for me and has brought forever friends into my life. I’m so happy to see how quickly this sport continues to grow. During my concert tour, I’m beginning to actually play pickleball on the stage (no net, just hitting back and forth)—bridging my passions for music and the game. It’s a crazy idea, but that’s who I am!”
Kathleen Heise, Walnut Creek, Calif., 62
“A friend of mine kept asking me to come out and play pickleball. I turned her down for about six months. I had never played any ball sports before. When I finally accepted the invitation, I enjoyed it so much that I bought a paddle after the second time playing. I’ve been playing for about 18 months now, and I’m hooked! I play with a group of gals at least two times a week. Our text thread is called ‘PBcrew.’ I love the outdoors, social connection, friendships and exercise. I’ve gotten a few of my siblings to play, and now I’m working on my grown children.”
Jason Martuscello, East Hampton, N.Y., 34
“I hadn’t played pickle ball until this summer. My wife’s relatives are extremely passionate about the sport and built a court in their yard for the locals to share stories, get competitive and have a good time.”
Carly Bellis, Delray Beach, Fla., 43
“One day during the pandemic, the tennis courts were too wet from rain, so my husband and I and another couple friend of ours traded our tennis rackets for pickleball paddles that we rented from the front desk at the tennis center. We googled the rules on our way to the court and immediately became addicted. Fast forward two years later and that friend Courtney Campbell [left] and I now own Swinton, a pickleball brand. Once we were hooked and ready to buy gear, we found that none of the gear out there spoke to us the same way the game did. We wanted gear that was as fun and fresh as the game itself, something for a younger demographic. So she and I started Swinton. Our tagline is ‘Kitchen’s Closed’ and we have a line of Apres Pickleball products. It sure is fun!”
Pennie Fox, Galion, Ohio, 62
“Our YMCA had a group of men players. My friend and I thought it looked fun. We joined in and now, two years later, I have my own court! My family loves the game, everyone from ages 3 to 65. We love making memories and getting a good workout.”
Dylan Lund, Crandon, Wis., 28
“I recently moved to a small town with my spouse, and we did not know anyone here. I saw a flier for a pickleball group and decided to join. Just about all of the other players are 55+, but there are a few young people like me. They were very excited for me to play with them and have been very open to new players. Pickleball has also helped me to build social connections in a place where I knew nobody. I typically play Monday through Friday. The sport was easy to pick up and affordable to start playing. I talk about the game to my family and they have shown an interest in starting to play, too.”
—Edited from interviews by Gretchen Tarrant