Do you have an opinion about Pickleball? Let us know if you agree with John about the amazing sport of pickleball. Feel free to share why pickleball is special to you.
Thanks John for your delightful opinion of our favorite sport: pickleball!
Hi, I’m John Gullo. I’m an ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association (USAPA). I’m also on the Board of Directors in charge of marketing for the USAPA, but my claim to fame is this: two years ago, along with a guy who just recently passed away, we came up with this idea of creating professional pickleball.
And two years ago, we invited 35 of the best players to Ogdon, Utah to compete for $18,000 worth of prize money. This past year, we opened it up after that test market and we had 90 players from 20 states, two Canadian provinces come out, competing in with a total prize pool of $48,000.
When I was asked, why are we doing this, and there was some concern. I says to the guy, “Were you a little boy once?” He says, “Yeah” and I says, “Did you grow up?” “Yeah” Well, that’s what’s happening to pickleball. It’s growing up. It’s evolving. And then we also have to remember the old saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old.” So as we nurture the younger people coming into the playing market, we have to make sure that we take care of the people who made this sport great.
I gotta share with you, as a great story. Me, my wife and Tim Nelson, one of the top players in the country, went over to Madrid in September, and we taught 26 Spaniards how to play pickleball. Not knowing Spanish, it was kind of a challenge, but it was a great time. But recently I was back in Ogdon and there’s a kid that’s from Barcelona, Spain teaching in the Ogdon School District and the people in Madrid made up a poster showing all the players there. And it said, “PIckleball in Spain, we love this game.” And that somebody from Madrid sent it to the family of this kid in Barcelona and the Barcelona family sent it to their son in Ogdon, Utah, the people went there to teach the game.
I mean, it just amazes me. I was asked what makes this sport so special. And the thing that makes it special is this: It’s the friendliest, most social game ever created! But in St. George, Utah where I winter, I play competitively with a 15-year-old kid. Name another sport, other than golf, which I don’t consider a sport, where a 15-year-old and a 70-year-old can actively be on a court playing together, having fun and you don’t make the kid mad. You just make sure you cover maybe six feet of the court and you let the kid run all over the place.
But it’s a great sport. It’s growing. I believe that I just saw, from a standpoint in the last 18 months, 48 courts a month are opening in the United States. The membership in the United States Pickleball Association is growing at the rate of 69%. It’s just unbelievable what’s happening. Try it. I ride a Harley-Davidson and Harley’s got a saying “Live to ride, ride to live”. Well, I change it, “Live to play, play to live”. Come on out try the game. It’s the greatest sport you’ll ever have fun at.