Donald Young and Angie Walker tapping paddles at the PPA Masters.
Donald Young and Angie Walker at the PPA Masters in January. PPA Tour

Americans love pickleball: Popularity grows 52% in 2023

DALLAS, TX – Every time I want to play pickleball, it feels like I need to bargain and battle for court time because there are just too many players and not enough venues. 

It certainly seems like pickleball's popularity is trending upward at a remarkable rate, and now we have the data to prove it.

According to the annual Topline Participation Report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), 13.6 million Americans played pickleball last year.

That ranks pickleball right under baseball (16.7 million), and outdoor soccer (14.1 million). 

Pickleball even beat downhill skiing at 13.1 million. 

That last stat doesn't surprise me, though. Skiing is a very expensive sport. Given the sheer amount of gear you need to hit the slopes, it has essentially become a luxury sport at this point.

Pickleball, however, can be as inexpensive as you want it to be. All you need is a paddle, some pickleballs, and a court. There's such a low barrier of entry. 

It’s also easy to learn. Despite the fact that scoring can be a little confusing at the outset, it's rather simple once you get the hang of it.

The bottom line is that pickleball isn't showing any signs of slowing down from a popularity standpoint. A major reason why the sport boomed in 2020 was the global pandemic that forced people to engage in activities where they could socially distance. 

Activities like visiting driving ranges had a slight increase, but pickleball was the clear winner.

“During the pandemic, participation in some sports like pickleball, golf, tennis, and hiking skyrocketed. But others, including many team sports and health club activities suffered,” said SFIA CEO Tom Cove according to Sportico. “I am happy to report that this year the participation data is consistent, and consistently positive.” 

Pickleball continues to grow tremendously. Now, we've just got to build more courts.