A young woman hits a forehand with a pickleball paddle.

What is Pickleball?

UTR Sports announced its entrance into pickleball this year, along with software solutions and a new rating (the UTR-P Rating). Pickleball, recognized as the fastest growing sport in America, is creating a buzz that refuses to fade. But...

What is pickleball?

Let's delve into the origins, rules, and dynamic world of this sport. Eager to get started right away? Get your UTR-P Rating now by clicking here.

Pickleball's Humble Beginnings

In 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Wash. (near Seattle), Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum came together to invent a child-friendly game played on an asphalt badminton court with a low net, wood paddles, and a plastic ball. The game that would become pickleball was simply a solution to keeping young families entertained.

While it took some time for pickleball to gain traction, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), rebranded as USA Pickleball (USAP) in 2020, played a crucial role in its ascent. Established in 2005, the association now boasts over 50,000 members. The recent USAP National Championships in Dallas witnessed a gathering of over 3,000 players and more than 50,000 fans.

A Fusion of Tennis, Badminton, and Ping Pong

What sets pickleball apart is its fusion of tennis, badminton, and Ping Pong elements, combined with volleyball-like scoring. Pickleball court dimensions are 20 x 44 feet, resembling a badminton court with lines reminiscent of tennis. At the net's front on each side lies "The Kitchen," a seven-foot non volley zone dictating that players cannot volley within its boundaries.

How to Play Pickleball

Each point begins with the ball bouncing twice — first after the serve and then after the return. The serving team will start with both players back while the receiving team will stagger, with the returner at the baseline and the returner's partner at the net. Doubles or singles, indoors or outdoors, on a tennis court, basketball court, or even a parking lot.

Pickleball's versatility is unmatched and all you need is a pickleball paddle, pickleball ball, and some lines. This adaptability contributes to its addictive nature, with players grasping the fundamentals within minutes. Progressing from beginner to intermediate is a feasible journey for almost anyone.

Two girls high five on the pickleball court

Diverse Player Base: Pickleball Breaks Stereotypes

Contrary to its "old people" sport reputation, pickleball is attracting a diverse player base. The average age of players is decreasing, dropping 2.9 years from an average of 41.0 years in 2020. Acknowledged as the fastest-growing sport in America for three consecutive years by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), participation has surged by 159%, nearing 9 million players in 2023.

Tennis Players Transition to Pickleball

Former college and pro tennis players are joining the pickleball wave, with skills effortlessly transitioning between the two sports. Legends like Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Michael Chang, John McEnroe, Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, John Isner, and more are making their mark on the pickleball court. If you're a tennis player in any capacity, your pickleball game may already be at an intermediate level. Other sports like table tennis, racquetball, padel, and squash are seeing lots of players also playing pickleball, and picking it up quickly.

Pickleball Tournaments and Matchplay

For enthusiasts seeking pickleball play competition, tournaments for recreational and professional players are all over the U.S. and beyond. In 2023, UTR Sports adapted its tennis rating and platform for pickleball, offering solutions for players to find players near them, register for tournaments, leagues, and matchplay, build their community for more play, and discover their skill level with the new UTR Pickleball Rating (UTR-P).

The UTR-P graphic explained with results and without match results.

UTR Pickleball Rating Offers Level Based Play Solutions

The UTR-P rating comes in two forms: one backed by match history, and one provisional rating (if you're new to UTR-P) to get you started and out on the court. Initially, players will receive a provisional rating (P1-P5) based on questionnaire results. After a few matches, this converts to a reliable decimal rating (1.0 - 10.0).

UTR Sports has partnered with the Association of Pickleball Players (APP Tour), which hosted 16 tournaments in the 2023 season, each featuring divisions for professionals, seniors, and amateurs for singles and doubles play. UTR-P is the official rating of the APP.

There's also the Pickleball Professional Association (PPA) and Major League Pickleball (MLP), a co-ed traveling team tour.

Investors Dive into Pickleball

MLP investors and owners include celebrity athletes like Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Naomi Osaka, Lebron James, and more. Some celebrities are even getting into the gear business with Jamie Foxx investing in The Best Paddle to produce pickleball paddles.

Plenty of new business opportunities are available for those looking to get into the gear side of pickleball. New companies are selling pickleball paddels, nets, pickleball bags, pickleball balls, accessories of all kinds, and there are even pickleball shoes!

Whether you're an experienced pickleball player or a newcomer, the sport's inclusive nature ensures a place for everyone. Knowing your rating will help you unlock a more fun, level based experience so find out your UTR-P Rating now (even if you don't have a lot of match results).

Looking for pickleball rules? We'll get to that next!

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