Recently, a new sport has been capturing headlines and stealing the spotlight. It’s called pickleball. And its name may sound just as crazy as the hype surrounding it.
Dubbed as the “fastest-growing sport in the US“, big-name athletes have been putting their money in a pickleball league: Major League Pickleball (MLP). NBA champions LeBron James and Draymond Green are both team owners. And just a few days ago, seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady and Tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters announced that they would be investing in their own team as well.
Safe to say that the stars have utmost confidence in this booming sport. But let’s start at the beginning…
What is pickleball, anyway?
To help people understand what this new craze is, many dub pickleball as a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong. And similar to these, it is a racket or paddle sport played on a badminton-sized court, but with a smaller tennis net.
In the sport, players make use of a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. And like other racket sports, pickleball can be played as a one-on-one game or as a doubles game. But, the rules differ slightly. For instance, to win a game, a player must reach 11 points and win by two points.
It sounds simple enough, and that is arguably the main reason it has gained popularity. It’s an easy sport for anyone to take up.
And now there’s a league?
Yes, now there is a Major League Pickleball—the top league for the sport in America.
The league currently has 12 teams, each one consisting of two men and two women, and all teams competes with one another. In every team matchup, there will be doubles matches for both men and women and two mixed-doubles matches. And if necessary, a singles tiebreaker will decide the winner.
For 2022, the league’s second season, the MLP organized three events. The first was held in Austin, Texas, the second in Newport Beach, California, and the third is taking place this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.
But, for 2023, MLP hopes to go bigger. From three events, the league plans to host six next year, and from 12 teams, they expect to see 16. On top of that, the prize pool may also increase from $1 million to $2.4 million.
With backers such as LeBron James and Tom Brady, it doesn’t seem too far fetched, even for a brand new league.
Who’s got a stake in it?
Last September, Major League Pickleball announced LeBron James, along with other investors, put in seven figures to purchase a new team in the league. The other investors included other NBA stars like Draymond Green and Kevin Love.
And jumping on the trend, Tom Brady also announced a few days ago that he would also be investing in a new pickleball team alongside Kim Clijsters. But, although Brady may be a new investor in the budding league, he actually started playing the sport himself a few years ago.
Apparently, the seven-time Super Bowl champion started playing pickleball four years ago and even plays with his kids. He even thought about building a court in his house.
But he’s not alone. In fact, nearly 5 million people in the United States started playing pickleball, according to the 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry Association. And on MLP’s official site, they hope to reach 40 million players by the year 2030.
Now, if you’re feeling FOMO and want in on the sports industry’s new star, don’t fret. The Philippines has its very own Pickleball Federation too.
I can play pickleball too?
Yes, you definitely can. But, the sport is still very new to the Philippines, so currently, there are no official pickleball courts just yet. However, the Philippine Pickleball Federation made sure that Filipinos can try it out too.
Making use of badminton courts around the Metro, the Federation has created venues for people to play pickleball in Alabang, Taguig, Makati, Pasig, and Quezon City. They have been making use of makeshift courts out of existing badminton or basketball courts.
For right now, it definitely works. We’ve been training pickleball players all across the country and hosting open tournaments. And if you want in, you can check out their website to view the available courts where you can play.
Who knows? Maybe some time soon, we’ll even see our own local pickleball league soon.