Pickleball Popularity Soars

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This fast-growing sport is now a must-have real estate amenity

Have you tried your hand at pickleball yet? This sport has been growing across the country, especially on Long Island, so much that it has become a popular amenity.

Avid pickleball player Evelyn MacDougall.
(Photo courtesy of Evelyn MacDougall)

Evelyn Alegre MacDougall, a retired NYPD Lieutenant, where she dedicated 20 years in law enforcement, has been a realtor at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty since November 2020. Her home office is the Syosset/Muttontown branch, and she is also an avid pickleball player. This increasingly popular sport has become a new must-have luxury amenity that buyers are seeking for their future vacation or primary home to have a pickleball court.

“People are looking now for communities and developments that have [pickleball] courts available to them. It used to be people requesting tennis courts or access to golfing, and now this has become a new popular request,” stated MacDougall.

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. The court is set up similarly to a tennis court. However, a pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court regardless of playing a singles or doubles match. It is about the size of a badminton court. Pickleball has a non-volley zone commonly known as “the kitchen,” unlike tennis where you can volley anywhere on the court. This prevents any player from spiking the ball.

The net in pickleball is placed a tad lower than in tennis, while the balls used also differ from each other. A usually white, plastic ball with holes fairly similar to a wiffle ball is used in pickleball. There is an outdoor and indoor version of the balls. The outdoor version is harder, while the indoors version is a bit softer and has bigger holes. Paddles are used in pickleball rather than string-woven racquets used in tennis.

During a match the ball is served diagonally, and points can only be attained by the side that serves. The ball must bounce once before any player on the court can attempt to volley. The server continues to serve and switches service courts until that server faults. The first team to score eleven points with a lead of at least two points wins the match.

Evelyn’s husband, Michael MacDougall, has also become an avid pickleball player. He is an NYPD Sergeant who has joined the recently established NYPD Pickleball League.

“He used to play tennis, and he never wanted anything to do with [pickleball]. Then he tried it, and now he is playing all the time on his days off with me,” Evelyn stated.

Even though pickleball’s popularity has skyrocketed today, it has been around since its development in 1965.

Founding member of pickleball, former U.S. Representative and Washington Lieutenant Governor Joel McFee Pritchard.
(Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

During the summer in 1965, former U.S. Representative and Washington Lieutenant Governor Joel McFee Pritchard and successful businessman Bill Bell arrived at Pritchard’s estate on Bainbridge Island, Washington to find the children sitting around claiming to be bored. Since the property had a badminton court, Pritchard and Bell were looking for the badminton equipment. Unable to find all of the necessary racquets for a game of badminton, the use of ping-pong paddles was improvised along with a porous plastic ball.

Former owner of the McCallum Envelope Company Barney McCallum was acquainted with the game at Pritchard’s estate. Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum would then develop the rules for pickleball shortly after, and the first official court was assembled in Bob O’Brian’s backyard in 1967. O’Brian was a friend and neighbor of Pritchard.

In 1984 the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was established to conserve the expansion of pickleball on a national level. In March 1984, the first rulebook for pickleball was produced.

During the year 1990, people participated in the sport in all 50 states.

At the age of 72, the originating founder of pickleball Joel Pritchard passed away in 1997.

Barney McCallum, one of the original developers of pickleball.
(Photo source: Pickleball Hall of Fame)

In 2001 pickleball was incorporated for the first time in the Arizona Senior Olympics. The competition occurred at Happy Trails RV Resort in Surprise, Arizona, and attracted around 100 players. At that point it was the greatest pickleball event that ever happened. The occasion would grow to almost 300 participants over the course of a few years.

Another of the founders of pickleball, Bill Bell, passed away at the age of 83 in 2006.

The National Senior Games Association incorporated pickleball for the first time in 2008.

In Buckeye, Arizona, from Nov. 2-8 the first USAPA National Tournament for contestants of various ages occurred in 2009. This competition captivated nearly 400 participants from 26 states and multiple Canadian provinces.

The following year USAPA instituted the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) organization to aid in advancing pickleball on an international magnitude.

Since 2016, USAPA established a national referee certification course.

Also during 2016, CBS Sports Network was the initial television station to nationally broadcast the first US Open Pickleball Championships which took place in Naples, Florida.

The remaining original founder of pickleball, Barney McCallum, passed away in 2019 at 93 years old.

One of the three founders of pickleball, Bill Bell.
(Photo source: Pickleball Hall of Fame)

In 2021 the USA Pickleball Membership attained a bit more than 53,000 members, this is a growth of 43 percent from the prior year.

Pickleball is currently expanding in popularity, with around 8,500 locations according to the USA Pickleball’s Places2Play map. The rise in demand of pickleball is associated with its popularity within retirement communities, physical education courses, community centers, and facilities such as the YMCA.

The term pickleball was named by Pritchard’s wife Joan Sutton. It was in reference to the local pickle boat races. In sailing, the pickle boat is the last boat to finish in a race.

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