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The trending sport in New York: pickleball

On this weekday evening, there are several dozen of them, men, women, thirties or retirees, to share four new courts which have replaced pétanque courts in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The teams are formed spontaneously and we wait our turn while discussing, in front of the unique view of the illuminated skyscrapers of Manhattan, before an 11-point game. It’s great fun. I always play with different peoplesmiles Amy Zhao, a 52-year-old New Yorker.

David Masters, a 31-year-old software engineer, was seduced, discouraged by tennis in New York:am”,”text”:”It’s 100 dollars (the annual price for access to public courts, editor’s note) and you have to get up at 6 am”}}”>It’s 100 dollars (the annual price for access to public courts, editor’s note) and you have to get up at 6 a.m. to find a niche, he explains.

With its neon yellow perforated plastic ball that floats a little in the air, its rackets reminiscent of padel, its compulsory spoon service and its small-sized court, pickleball can take on the appearance of tennis","text":"mini-tennis"}}">mini-tennisor even tennis","text":"sous-tennis"}}">sub tennis for his detractors.

But what pleases is precisely this mix with badminton and ping-pong, which causes hyper-fast exchanges and improbable volleys. In addition to reflexes, placement on the pitch is crucial: you have to play high on the court, but with a ban on entering an area behind the net when you hit the ball on the fly.

Pickleball players in Brooklyn, New York.

Photo : afp via getty images / ED JONES

The game, invented in 1965 in Washington State by three fathers, including elected Republican Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell, is on the rise in the United States: in February, the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) called it a sport fastest growing of the country, with 4.8 million regular or occasional players in 2021, up 39% compared to 2019.

A clearly visible surge in New York, where private trainers have appeared – at $75 an hour for some – and courts have sprouted everywhere, sometimes in a homemade way in sports parks, with strips of big scotch white to delimit the grounds and portable nets.

During the pandemic, people wanted activities. And pickleball ticks a lot of boxes, because it gets you outside, and it’s a sport that doesn’t require tons of exercise, unless you want to play at a higher level.explains Karim Kerawala, a client manager of 33 years, one of the most active players in Brooklyn.

On the application where his group organizes meetings, the number of players has increased in one year from 200/300 to nearly 2000, he explains. By admitting all smiles that for him, it’s a new obsession.

Several circuits professionals The American landscape is already disputed, including the APP Tour, founded in 2019, which was able to organize its first tournament at the end of May in Flushing Meadows, on the grounds of the United States Open.

Two men are playing pickleball on an outdoor court.

Two players practice pickleball outside Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open.

Photo : Getty Images / Al Bello

Its competitor, the PPA Tour, founded in 2018 and bought by businessman Tom Dundon, already owner of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, signed exclusive contracts for the 24 best players in the discipline, men and women. The circuit distributed three million dollars in bonuses in 2022, a sum which should double in 2023according to Hannah Johns, director of content for the organization.

We were able to get bigger sponsors and we are now working with the most important channel networks, which have helped us bring this sport to the general public.she explains, citing NBC, ABC, Fox, and pointing to the broadcast this summer of a tournament on the national channel CBS.

And in this turbulent sector, Major League Pickleball, which aims to reach the goal of 40 million players by 2030, announced on Wednesday that American basketball star LeBron James had joined forces with fellow players Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) and Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers) to buy out a team.

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