James Ignatowich playing pickleball at PPA Tour Masters 2024
James Ignatowich competing at the PPA Masters in January. PPA Tour

Is pickleball getting too fast?

DALLAS, TX – The 2024 PPA serving rules were an attempt at slowing down the game by prioritizing hand battles and kitchen play as opposed to power shots that end the rallies too quickly.

Paddle and ball technology is continually getting better, but is that compromising the sport? Is pickleball getting too fast?

On the Pickleball Facebook Forum, user Larry VanderRoest shared his thoughts on the subject: “Due to advancements with paddles and balls, pickleball is getting too fast and power oriented.” 

“This post is not about playing style, skill level, me being a baby, or me being old. It’s about the negative impact of new paddle and ball technology on the game. You may simply not be aware, but there are a few new paddles that are hitting the ball so much harder that it’s affecting the way the game is played,” he added.

“The banger game just isn’t as fun as the longer volleys of the skill and finesse game,” wrote Anthony Lopilato, who agreed with VanderRoest's opinion. 

This is a common complaint when pickleball purists see the pros play. A power battle isn’t as entertaining to watch as a spectator as the strategic cat and mouse game.

“Pickleball is definitely not what it used to be. I loved this sport when there was more strategy involved than this banging power game,” shared Carolyn Targosz. 

However, this is a catch-22. The more people that play pickleball, the better the athletes become. And with better athletic ability, the strategy involved in the game can essentially be eliminated by unreturnable power shots. Some players argue that's simply not the game pickleball was intended to be.

“Speed is credited with killing racquetball in the 70s,” mentioned James Lupi. 

Yes, pickleball is getting faster with advances in paddle technology, but isn’t that what happens in sports? Major League Baseball pitches only get faster. One-hundred meter dash sprinters only get faster at every Olympics. Records continually get broken. 

The game can evolve, and it should, but it comes at a price. Pickleball purists who reminisce about a time when nobody really knew what the sport was wouldn’t have the outstanding paddle technology if it weren’t for pickleball’s boom in popularity. There wouldn’t be as many courts, as many teams, as many tournaments, and as big of a community to connect with.

Ben Johns playing mixed doubles with Anna Leigh Waters at PPA Desert Ridge Open
Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters at the PPA Desert Ridge Open. PPA Tour

However, USAP rules are helping to control a game that’s been deemed “too fast.” And at the pro level, particularly in doubles, it’s still a very strategic game. 

Case in point is the way the ultra-successful Johns brothers go about their business. What makes them doubles champions again and again is their strategic soft game and cat and mouse strategy. Ask any pro on tour, and they’ll share that the thing that surprised them the most about pickleball was the overall strategy of the game.

As for whether or not the game is getting too fast, it comes down to this simple phrase: adapt or perish. And I think we better start adapting. 

And if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.