The game has competitive pro leagues (the Professional Pickleball Association and the Association of Pickleball Professionals), a national governing body (the USA Pickleball Association), two magazines (InPickleball and Pickleball Magazine), broadcast deals with CBS, Fox Sports, and the Tennis Channel, and the lofty (but not insane) goal of becoming an Olympic sport in time for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Pickleball even has A-list celebrities in George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio.
“It’s growing much more than just tennis, and the tennis community knows that,” said Rick Warsinskey, who serves as one of four ambassadors for the sport at ClevelandPickleball.com. “During the pandemic, something happened where people just wanted to get out, and pickleball just caught on. People kept saying, ‘What kind of pickleball is this I’m hearing about?’
“People love the game. It goes up geometrically instead of a straight line.”
Part of that is because of accessibility – a paddle costs anywhere from $40 to $150while an average ball costs about $3 – and part of that is because it requires less practice, less space and – importantly – less running than tennis.
“It’s very easy to pick up, and I think that’s why we’re seeing so much growth,” said Jurek, who works as a finance director for Human Ventures Capital. “The majority of players are most likely over 45, but the younger demographic is starting to pick it up, and that’s really exciting to see.
“The name alone is a conversation starter. I know some people feel like it’s just a trend, but I think it’s more than a trend. I think it’s definitely a sport that will be here for a long time to come .”
Warsinskey, who spent 43 years as a Social Security Administration manager in downtown Cleveland, discovered pickleball in 2019 while staying at his apartment in Naples, Florida. A hotbed of pickleball, the town offers 60 courts within a five-minute drive of Warsinkey’s flat. He returned to Cleveland as a pickleball missionary and compiled a list of locations in the Cleveland area that offered jobs, while gaining a reputation as the local authority on where to find, say, indoor doubles for players of intermediate skill level. near Rocky River. He has compiled a list of more than 50 places between Cleveland and Dover that offer indoor and tennis courts that are either pickleball specific or taped tennis courts.
At the end of April, his email newsletter had 546 subscribers and is growing, well, geometrically.
“My biggest challenge right now is how to get courts in Cleveland,” he said. “Especially downtown, but anywhere in the city of Cleveland would be nice.”
Perhaps the biggest sign of the sport’s growth is the fact that you can win good money with it. The PPA Tour expect to pay out over $3 million in tournament prize money in 2022. Local, the recent Cleveland Pickleball Classic in Mentor had a payout of $5,000, and the Western Reserve racket and fitness club in Streetsboro paid out $8,000 at the Pickleball Moneyball Shootout.
ClevelandPickleball.com meanwhile promotes the second annual Cleveland Pickleball Classicscheduled for July 16 at Bleser Park in Avon Lake.
It’s part of the site’s larger mission to grow the sport in Cleveland, something Jurek and Warsinskey do as a service, not a job.
(They enjoy it, you might say.)
“I’m not making a dime on this; I’m just doing it,” Warsinskey said. “I filled a need that was there. I like pickleball, I like talking to people about it and my job as an ambassador is to get people talking so they can play.”
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