Prior to the 2023 New Year, the latest data on the popularity of pickleball was published in February 2022 by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). According to this 2022 SFIA study, there were 4.8 million pickleball players in the United States. With the incredible explosion of pickleball in 2022—where pickleball continuously made national headlines and pulled major investment from individuals to companies (both new and existing, and of all sizes)—many believed that this 4.8 million number was quickly outdated. Rather, many believed that the real number was closer to 6 or 8 million pickleball players. (Just ask anyone waiting to play at a public pickleball court!)
Ahead of the 2022 SFIA report, which is expected to be released around February 2023, the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) worked in conjunction with YouGov to determine what the current participatory rate for pickleball really is in the United States. They created the 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report (to be a yearly study put forth by APP), which concluded that pickleball is much more popular than the previous reports indicated. Rather than just 4.8 million players, pickleball had more than 36.5 million pickleball players in the 12-month period between August 2021 and August 2022—proving that pickleball is certainly America’s fastest growing sport.
The report noted that 14% of Americans aged 18 and over played pickleball at least once in the 12-month period August 2021 to August 2022 (which adds up to 36.5 million people nationally). Of these 36.5 million, 8.5 million people played pickleball eight times or more in the 12-month period August 2021 to August 2022. Further, speaking to the “addictiveness” of pickleball, 45% of the 36.5 million total players noted that they “plan to play pickleball more often in the next 6 months than the previous 6-month period.”
This was not the first YouGov poll on pickleball either. In a poll conducted on October 1-4, 2022 (on 1,500 adults), YouGov and The Economist found that 1 in 10 Americans have played pickleball. Further, they found that “people who have played pickleball tend to be younger: one in five 18- to 29-year-olds (20%) say they have played the game, compared with just 4% of Americans 65 and older.”
It will be interesting to review the 2022 SFIA report in February 2023 and compare the 2022 data to both the previous 2021 calendar year report created by the SFIA, as well as this new report by APP/YouGov. APP/YouGov compiled their data by surveying almost “2,500 nationally representative adults ages 18+ across America.” By contrast, SFIA typically surveys substantially more (SFIA surveyed more than 18,000 people in 2020). Pickler will be on the lookout for the SFIA report in February 2023 and will report any findings.
Nevertheless, one thing is certain—whether anecdotally on the pickleball courts or rooted in numbers like the YouGov or SFIA polls and surveys—and that is that pickleball is exploding! Tom Webb, Chief Marketing Officer of the APP emphasized this point in his statement: “In 2020, a pandemic year, previous reports stated that over four million people picked up a paddle to play pickleball, with that number reportedly growing to over five million in 2021. Those numbers appear to have been conservative, but what the APP’s report shows is that the popularity of pickleball has exploded. Pickleball courts continue to be built and installed nationwide, and people from coast to coast are trying the sport for the first time, and immediately falling in love with pickleball… [36.5 million pickleball players] find so much enjoyment from a sport they can pick up easily, which costs very little to play, and which rewards its participants from the first time they play.”