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The Shen Pen

The Rise of Pickleball Among Younger Generations

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Women’s pickleball champion Anna Leigh Waters is 17-years-old. Photo Credit: Google Images

The dink sound of the bright yellow ball when it hits the paddle is no longer just a sound heard in the courts of retirement homes. 

The new ‘it’ sport of pickleball has sparked an interest in the hearts of the younger generations, throwing off the stereotypical “only old people play this” assumption. The sport has recently picked up many younger fans. Whether the challenge of the game is intriguing, or the play is surprisingly fun, pickleball has become increasingly popular in a matter of just a couple years.

Pickleball has been an up and coming sport for the past few years, making its appearance in high school gym classes, and at local parks and sports complexes. The game has made its way to the national stage, with the number one ranked women’s player in doubles, mixed doubles, and singles, Anna Leigh Waters, being just 17 years old. It’s a unique sport that offers a change of pace from tennis, with a different paddle and set of rules. According to The Pickleball Dinks, “ages 18-34 represents the largest age bracket of pickleball players, totaling 28.8% of all players.” Younger people are taking up the sport and excelling.

In 2023, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) ruled that for the third consecutive year in America, pickleball was the most rapidly-growing sport. 

Michael Tymeson, Shenendehowa Physics teacher, has been playing since COVID. Tymeson says he and his wife are competitive people, so it’s a great sport for them. 

“It’s an easy sport to pick up, as long as you play with people of the same skill level,” said Tymeson. 

Kelly DiGesualdo, Shenendehowa physical education teacher, says the sport is challenging, but is great to play with all generations. 

“I’ve watched some high level competition on tv and it’s pretty intense,” said DiGesualdo. 

Tymeson said that over the past summer, he typically played twice a day for about two to three hours at a time, accumulating a daily 25,000 step count. He found it to be common to see younger generations of players during his games, sometimes even playing with a 20 year old himself. 

“There are tours of pickleball, and there’s always teenagers on them,” said Tymeson. He sees many students from Skidmore College who come to play in the summer. 

Pickleball has been a staple in Shen gym classes for the past few years. It wasn’t always a unit though. “We just saw it developing within the community and thought it would be great to introduce it to students,” said DiGesauldo. It’s a great sport to play in a smaller space, and students are more apt to play. In general, she finds that students enjoy it once they learn how scoring works.

Bruce Armstrong, a student at Shen, said “I find it really engaging. The competition in other units can’t compare,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong said he doesn’t typically enjoy gym class, but says the pickleball unit is one of his favorites. 

“I like it because it’s easy to learn and doesn’t involve a lot of movement,” Armstrong said.  

The gym coaches at Shen share the same goal as the inventor of pickleball.

“Introduction of the sport hopefully leads kids to play it on their own and hopefully with their parents and families,” said DiGesualdo. 

DiGesauldo credits the rise in popularity to the rise of facilities across the country. 

“You used to have to find a tennis court or play in your driveway, but now there are places with actual pickleball courts,” she said. 

Finding a place to play pickleball can prove to sometimes be difficult around Clifton Park. While there are many tennis courts at various parks or even at schools, pickleball courts are much more sparse. There are courts in Saratoga and Albany, but the closest are found at Impact Athletic Center in Halfmoon, with open courts every weekday for five hours each morning, and Friday evenings from 6-8 pm. Impact has a low cost for open courts, from $7-$10, and having a membership makes it free to play. 

The town of Clifton Park has taken its residents recommendations though, and is planning to construct ten pickleball courts at the Veteran’s Park on MacElroy Road,  set aside from residential areas. 

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