Last week, Piedmont elementary school students enjoyed multiple sessions of pickleball during P.E. class on the Linda Beach courts. The Linda Beach courts are currently available for pickleball use by the schools and the public during a several month trial being conducted by the Piedmont Recreation Department. At the end of the trial, the Piedmont Recreation Commission and City Council will decide whether the use of the Linda Beach courts exclusively for pickleball will be made permanent. Use of the courts by Piedmont students will continue throughout the trial and, hopefully, become permanent.
Pickleball is the nation’s fastest growing sport. The International Federation of Pickleball currently has at least 70 member nations and is striving for inclusion of pickleball as an Olympic sport, possibly as early as 2028. According to the Sports Fitness Industry Association’s 2022 Pickleball Report, a third of pickleball players are under age 25. The current number one rated pickleball players in the world are Ben Johns, a now 24-year-old who converted from tennis to pickleball at age 17, and Anna Leigh Waters, a now 16-year-old who went pro at age 12. Both are reeling in substantial tournament winnings and endorsement deals.
Former Piedmont High School and professional tennis player, Brad Gilbert, recently told ABC News, “I do see the sport [pickleball] growing because of how much quicker the learning curve to play.” Brad Gilbert coached the former tennis great Andre Agassi, who has now become a pickleball convert. Agassi, Michael Chang, John McEnroe and Andy Roddick recently played in a pickleball event with a million dollar purse.
According to a recent article on Parents.com, part of the huge rise in pickleball participation is due to the increased inclusion of pickleball in schools’ athletic curriculums and at summer camps. In another referenced Parents.com article, soccer star Alex Morgan rued the decline in kids’ interest in sports, noting that 70 percent of kids in the U.S. stop playing sports by age 13. Morgan urged the prioritization of funding for municipal infrastructure allowing for low-cost participation by kids in sports that are “fun.” Pickleball meets both criteria. Municipalities across the nation are racing to meet the growing demand for pickleball facilities.
The Piedmont Pickleball Committee hopes that one or more of these happy youngsters enjoying pickleball at the Linda Beach courts will become a star on a future Piedmont High School Pickleball Team and/or the next Ben Johns or Anna Leigh Waters. At the very least, they will learn a sport which is low cost, fun, and can be continued throughout their lifetimes.