A New Age in Pickleball

Pickleball is unique in three ways:

1) It has the lowest barrier to entry of all paddle and racquet sports.

2) It largely removes advantages coming from age, gender and even athletic ability. And…

3) It has developed a unique culture where both friendship and activity intersect.

The paddle and underhand serve to lower the barrier to entry. The low bouncing ball and non-volley zone mitigate discrimination. The small court and preference for doubles and “groupy” nature encourage socialization.

But the aspect of age discrimination is eroding. And I think that’s good news for the sport.

Dave Weinbach

Dave Weinbach has won gold in Mens Doubles during both Pickleball US Opens

The inevitable rise of younger players to the top of this sport is near; this is wonderful for everyone and humbling for some, including me. Three years ago Brian Staub, at 56 years old, won Nationals with Phil Bagley (Phil was in his 40s). Two years ago Steve Dawson and his son Callam took silver in the Nationals. Steve was 50.

But in 2016, no player over 50 even medaled in the top three Mens Open tournaments in the nation. Dave Weinbach appears ageless on the court and demonstrates that a player in their 40s can still prevail in the highest levels of play.

I predict that, within 3 years, no player over 50 will ever medal again in the biggest men’s doubles events (except within age brackets). Sad for some. But great for the sport and for the many young players who enjoy it immensely. The sport which works so hard not to discriminate against age is finally giving way.

Kyle Yates

22-year-old Kyle Yates was Dave’s partner for both Opens

Even the USAPA cannot dictate a low enough bouncing ball to stop this train!

Kyle Yates, Ty McGuffin and Ben Johns love the sport and now own it. Seniors like me do our best to simply acknowledge and celebrate this trend. Younger players bring a thrill to the sport that is exciting. And I am a happy resident of Realville!

Pickleball rallies conclude with all four players at the kitchen line. Typically, a popped up ball and lightening fast exchange concludes the point. Suffice to say, youth will prevail in these exchanges.

What are your thoughts on pickleball’s growing trend of favoring younger players?

8 thoughts on “A New Age in Pickleball

  1. Somewhat true. The talent isn’t here yet! Kyle, Ty, Ben and the other players mentioned on this post are good players. You will understand what true talent is when they arrive. Let the so called 5.0/Pros of now milk it for what it’s worth on this rating curve. When the big money is here or it becomes an Olympic event we will show up to the party but for now Have Fun!

  2. Hail the young Turks! It is exciting to watch them play. Age groups are the rough equivalent of handicaps in golf. It only makes sense for the enjoyment and competitiveness of all. I’ve been fortunate to watch (and briefly play exhibitions) with younger level 5’s, Glen, and Scott Moore. All have a place in this great sport. I only wish I had started playing 50 years ago!

  3. It is just reality that younger players will have faster reflexes, meaning that they will win the majority of bang bangs at the net. That is why there are age groups– to equalize out the competition. I attended a skill level only tournament and the younger 4.5s waxed me. I got a few licks in but reality set in. So, that is why I play in my age bracket and have a good time in the opens with no expectations of winning– just do my best. My hope is that these up and coming youngsters carry on the wonderful traditions of camaraderie and politeness that us old fogies have given to the game

  4. Glen, I agree! Look at golf – all they talk about on TV and in golf magazines is the “young guns”. Same in Pickleball now that the sport is growing like crazy around the world. We knew it would happen maybe just not as quickly as it did. In the end, it is great for the sport and for sustaining the sport for years to come.

  5. As long as younger players are adopting pickleball and perpetuating the culture of friends and fun, I say the more the merrier. If younger players are picking up the game to dominate tournaments, different story.

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