In the summer of 1965, Congressman and former Lieutenant Governor Joel M. Prichard, and businessman Bill Bell were at Joel’s house in Bainbridge, WA (near Seattle). Their families had nothing to do so they improvised using some old badminton equipment and ping pong paddles. Along with a perforated whiffle ball. Hence, the exciting game of Pickleball was born. Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.
Fast forward 55 years to 2020 and Pickleball is played in all 50 states. The Amateur Pickleball Association of America reached the 50,000 milestone and ended last year with over 53,000 members. A 43% increase from the previous year and the largest single growth year increase for the organization. 2300 registered players participated in the Margaritaville USA Pickleball Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens in California. The USA Pickleball National Championships presented by Pickleball Central was the largest tournament in the world year to date.
According to the Sports & Fitness Association (SFIA), Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America. NBA players Lebron James, Draymond Green and Kevin Love have invested in Major League Pickleball (MLP). An uptick in mainstream media coverage of MLP games, through CBS Sports Network telecasting the finals of MLP events. When it was first announced, the involvement of those pro athletes, MLP strategic advisor Anne Worcester stated, “The league has received more than 100 inquiries from interested prospective owners and sponsors”.
The league now bolsters 16 teams from 12. As well as an increase in events from 3 to 6. With an increase in prize money from 1 million to 2 million annually.
Clarendon County, SC is putting their paddles on the court. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Clarendon County Community Complex (Weldon Auditorium Gym) on 13 Maple St. in Manning. Pickleball enthusiasts from throughout Clarendon county and neighboring areas meet and play. A few Saturdays ago, Director of the Clarendon County Recreation Department, Mr. Paul McCullough (Pickleball player extraordinaire) recently hosted a Pickleball demonstration at JC Britton Park on Racoon Road in Manning.
Ms. Diane Walker is the Clarendon County Pickleball Ambassador with USA Pickleball. By day she is the Physical Education teacher with Clarendon County Schools at Dr. Rose H. Wilder Elementary School. When asked about pickleball, Coach Walker states, “Pickleball is fun, it is easy to learn and people from age 8 to 99 can play. They can learn within a couple of hours...people love it and come from all over the area just to play Pickleball. It is a great way for people to exercise, socialize, and have fun. It is an enjoyable and healthy recreational activity for everyone. It may take some time to get everyone involved, as word gets out the game will gain popularity”.
Coach Walker plans to help expand the game throughout the county. Coach Walker earlier this year was awarded funding from the Donors Choose organization to purchase pickleball nets and paddles. Additionally, she used some of the funding to lay out the lines for the courts. Whereas she has been teaching students and some parents how to play on Thursday afternoons during the summer months at Rose Wilder Elementary. Coach Walker has opened a Pickleball Club known as the Pickleball Sharks. This group chat is on the app Team Reach. Coach Walker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org