Yesterday was the announcement of Major League Pickleball, a development that truly legitimizes a sport that has seen explosive growth in recent years. Pickleball, a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis, is now the fastest growing sport in America, according to The Economist.
Major League Pickleball (MLP) officially kicked off Tuesday with a ceremony in Dreamland – Dripping Springs, Texas. MLP will see the world’s 32 best professional pickleball players (16 women and 16 men) compete against each other in a live, four-day competition at Dreamland, November 5-8.
Eight teams of two will compete for the Pritchard Cup, named after Joel Pritchard, the man who founded the sport.
Now it’s common, so much so that athletes really train in it. You need to be light, smart, nimble, and agile to be successful in this sport, and Zwift is an app that helps people maximize their treadmill workouts. Equipment such as these machines help develop both the stamina and speed which are a prerequisite for being a stellar pickleball player. Zwift, like Peloton, brings a social media component at the table.
You can certainly attribute virtual socialization, or interactivity across screens, to the reason for the Pelo craze. Nordic Track also used this concept. Zwift provides the ability to interact with friends, race against other people, and provide other fun experiences.
While all treadmills offer a variety of workouts, the best option for Pickleball training is probably the âRun-Walkâ training option.
This involves running / sprinting for one minute (6.0mph or more), then walking for a minute (3.0-4.5mph) and repeating the pattern. For pickleball, cardio training is important, for the same reasons as in tennis – rallies can often involve a lot of round-trip sprints.
During a match it really adds up, so conditioning can make all the difference in a match where both players are more or less equally skilled.
The best in the world in this sport are really eager to start this league.
âMajor League Pickleball will be great for our sport,â said professional pickleball player Irina Tereschenko.
âMLP is bringing a new format, a team event that will bring people together and a draft that I expect to be epic. I am also very happy to see that the owners of the team are all avid pickleball fans and players who want to help develop the sport.
âOverall I think it’s going to be huge; I know I can’t wait for the first season to begin, and that’s how many of my fellow pros feel.
Pickleball pros will compete against each other in a Ryder Cup-like competition, where all players on each team will receive the same cash prize, with the potential to win over $ 150,000 in-game. In addition to cash payouts, players will receive a stake in the league’s inaugural season and a stake in the future value of MLP.
From 2019 to 2020, there was a 21.3% increase in the number of pickleball participants (according to Sports and Fitness Industry Association reports), with accelerated growth continuing through 2020 and 2021, helped in part by the covid-19 pandemic. With gyms closed and then reopened only with restrictions, people exercised outside and pickleball equipment flew off store shelves.
Ben Johns, the world’s No.1 professional pickleball player, is excited about the arrival of Major League Pickleball.
âMLP is going to change the face of our sport,â he said.
âThis innovative team format will attract new people to our sport, and what the MLP team puts into brand building will help raise awareness of the pros who are already playing the game at such an incredible level – basically, it’s huge for the players.
“It’s a career for a lot of us, and now we have an exciting new platform to show who we are and what we do.”
Much like Starbucks, Microsoft, and Nike, the sport originated in the Pacific Northwest. It started in Washington state in 1965 when a group of fathers threw together wooden paddles, a badminton net, and a perforated plastic ball to hit the driveway.
When it comes to the name and meaning of the sport, there are competing theories and urban legends, the best of which centers around a dog named Pickle. Legend has it that he kept picking up the ball and running away with it.
Quoting this Economist article, “In the five years leading up to the end of 2019, pickleball participation increased by more than 7%, while the overall activity level of Americans has remained stable.”
Such trends indicate that this is a sport to watch in 2022, 2023 and beyond.
Paul M. Banks conducts The sports bank, in partnership with News now. Banks, the author of “Transatlantic crossing: how the English Premier League redefined football in America” and “No I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons from a Lifetime in the Sports Media Industry, has regularly appeared in WGN, Illustrated sports and the Chicago Tribune.