Created in 1965, pickleball is a new sport, relatively speaking. Originally designed as a simple game for kids to play in their yards, pickleball has gained somewhat of a cult following in the U.S., especially in community rec centers.
Played with paddles on a badminton-size court, pickleball is a fast-paced game for all ages that combines aspects of badminton, tennis and ping-pong. Because pickleball courts take up less space than tennis courts and the game itself is easy for beginners to pick up on, this sport is perfect for any rec center to add to its offerings.
Here, Amy Dowe, the director of wellness at the Tucson JCC, shares her experience with adding pickleball to her facility’s offerings and how one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. has helped improve member engagement:
Why did you decide to implement pickleball at the Tucson JCC?
AD: Pickleball has exploded across the country, so we’re really trying to build that program here. We have not moved into hosting competitive tournaments as of yet, but it’s definitely expanding. There are several places in town that offer pickleball, and we’ve been lucky enough to be one of those places — for example, there’s a racquet club down the street and that’s their specialty. We’re glad we’ve been able to maintain this group of people, and they’ve grown into this little community.
How has your facility adjusted to accommodate this increasingly popular program?
AD: We probably get anywhere between 15 to 25 people on any given day. We’ll have four courts running at one time — previously, it used to run 7-9 a.m., Monday through Friday. Now we’ve expanded the hours, added Saturday hours and we’ve added some beginner work for people. And some days, our players are there until 10 a.m. We’re just offering them more space and time.
How can pickleball positively affect member acquisition and retention?
AD: People see it and they want to know more about it. In fact, a few of the members in our little pickleball community spend time with newer beginners in the last hour they have the courts available. It really is a great opportunity for people to learn more about the sport.