The Rise of Pickleball


Jack Bone, Journalist

Pickleball has hit the ground running. Clubs, events, and teams are popping up all over the country, and thousands of athletes are switching to this niche sport. Pickleball has found a flagship stop in Florida, where national tournaments are held annually and where the best of the best compete for large sums of prize money. However, pickleball expands beyond the professional level and settles in urban communities, local community centers, schools, and clubs. Pickleball is making a statement, and the recent press only works to increase its popularity.

At Ipswich High School, pickleball has announced itself as the official Ipswich High School Pickleball Club. Class of 2023 senior Colin Hansen is the club’s co-founder. When asked about his personal experiences with the sport, he commented, “Pickleball is easy to pick up and is a great way to play a competitive sport.” When playing doubles, teamwork is necessary. Communication and coordination are critical to any successful sport; however, the fast-paced game of pickleball tests these limits, much like tennis. Colin Hansen states, “pickleball is better than tennis; its fast-paced nature and smaller court create a more intense and exciting game.” Ipswich is hopping on the pickleball trend and welcomes all students to take advantage of the club during the first two Fridays R-Blocks of every month.


Ipswich High School isn’t the only one who is entering the realm of pickleball. The likes of elite athletes such as Lebron James and Tom Brady are investing in pickleball teams. The 45-year-old quarterback joined an ownership group that invested in an expansion franchise for the 2023 Major League Pickleball (MLP) season, together with former No. 1 tennis star Kim Clijsters. “They are champions on their fields, and now they will be champions of Major League Pickleball,” MLP creator Steve Kuhn said of the addition of the players to the league’s list of strategic partners. Brady and Clijsters follow in the footsteps of other prominent athletes, such as LeBron James and the NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love. Earlier this year, they disclosed that they had formed a group to purchase an MLP expansion franchise. The number of teams increased from 12 to 16.


Gardner “Gardy” O’Flynn has been in the pickleball game for the past twenty-plus years, excelling in the sport and teaching students the fundamentals of pickleball during physical education since 2002. On the recent surge of pickleball, Gardy commented, “It’s a simple sport, straightforward, and people are traditionalists – they like their tennis. It’s a loud sport and can be seen as a disturbance when played outside; it just takes a little time to be accepted.” Gardy spoke to the recent pickleball investor, Tom Brady, “They see it as a business opportunity first. They see how popular it is. It reaches a wide variety of people, and when played at a higher level, it is an extremely competitive sport. Whenever you get money involved, the players will come out.” Pickleball is a considerable investment opportunity and only works to further benefit the investors and the credibility of pickleball.

The pickleball fever has dialed up to eleven, and more and more younger athletes are making a name for themselves in the professional arena. Around the North Shore, pickleball has anchored itself in the local YMCA and tennis clubs. Variations of ages and skill levels can be found and observed no matter where you play; even at Ipswich High School, the player pool has endless potential. Pickleball is here to stay and may soon be amongst other staple sports.