The sport of pickleball and the pickleball community—which is centered around community, inclusiveness, and social interaction—seem to be uniquely positioned to power “good.” This is evident as, around the world, pickleball clubs and groups host events, pro-ams, exhibitions, round robins, and tournaments to raise money for specific causes and charities, ranging from The Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the local Humane Society, and the local pickleball club and public courts, among others.
One Florida couple, Bob and Martha Gilbert, is leaning into these special qualities of pickleball in a unique way.
As an initial matter, while pickleball is trending younger, the average age of a pickleball player is still middle aged. The image of pickleball being your grandparents’ game has largely been dispelled in recent times, but the sport is by no means the kids’ game… yet. This is a trend that the Gilberts are hoping to continue, as they are committed to growing and providing opportunities for youth pickleball.
What started out as an endeavor to raise money to put on a youth pickleball camp in their local community of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has now evolved into a fully registered Section 501(c)(3) organization called the Youth Pickleball Alliance, whose mission is “to promote the sport of pickleball, encourage youth involvement and participation in pickleball activities, and raise funds for the purpose of making grants or contributions to other charitable and educational Section 501(c)(3) organizations or governmental entities.”
Youth Pickleball Alliance is about more than just having the younger generations carry on the sport of pickleball. In Martha’s words, “we have seen the camps’ children teaching their parents to play, an autistic child improving his physical coordination and finding happiness in the inclusiveness of other children; the growth in an individual’s self-confidence as their skills improve; and the pure joy of kids being outdoors laughing and playing with other children.”
To provide these opportunities for growth, inclusiveness, connection, and fun, Youth Pickleball Alliance has taken a fresh look at how to bring the pickleball community together. Rather than the traditional tournament or other on-court event, Youth Pickleball Alliance has put a space in pickleball… literally… and hosts an annual Pickle Ball.
The Pickle Ball is a dinner and dance filled with recreational, competitive, advanced, and beginner pickleball players (and included myself on the dance floor!), and everything in between. The event leans into the social side of the game and provides another venue for the community to connect and celebrate all of the good qualities of the game—as well as raise money for a great cause in providing opportunities for the younger generations to learn and get involved. The Pickle Ball raised around $19,000, which (after expenses) will be used to subsidize youth camps and clinics across South Florida (and possibly even the country).
The power of pickleball is the community and connection, which is exactly what the Gilberts and Youth Pickleball Alliance have found a way to foster and bring even more of the community into the fold by engaging the next generation.
To learn more about Youth Pickleball Alliance, donate to the cause, or otherwise get involved (whether by hosting a Pickle Ball in your community or requesting support for a youth pickleball camp in your community), visit https://ypalliance.com/contact-us/.