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.
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.
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?