In recent times, the sport of pickleball has seemingly smashed the stereotype that it is a sport for just the elderly. But, pickleball is no longer just your grandparents’ game. Pickleball is a game for all generations, including the youth.
Organizations on a national stage, like the PPA Tour, APP Tour, and Pickle4, have made efforts to bring the sport of pickleball to kids across the country. For instance, the PPA Tour has hosted charitable events at local elementary schools at tour stops, while the APP Tour has dedicated a portion of its tour to the “next generation” with its NextGen Series. Also, Pickle4, which recently launched the Ballpark Series™, hosted a free kids’ clinic at Fenway Park and Oracle Park, where pro players like Simone Jardim, Parris Todd, Catherine Parenteau, JW Johnson, and Jorja Johnson taught kids how to play the country’s fastest growing sport in some of the most iconic ballparks.
But, this is not just happening on a national stage. There are other more local organizations and individuals, like People of Purpose and Coach Cat Huynh, that are changing kids’ lives through the sport of pickleball. Through a grant from the Youth Pickleball Alliance, Inc. (a non-profit that encourages youth involvement in pickleball), People of Purpose organized a summer camp for kids, ages 13 to 17, who have had an encounter with the law or the juvenile justice system. This summer camp began with an hour of pickleball instruction by PPR-certified Coach Cat, followed by another hour of facilitated discussion with community leaders on topics like purpose, passion, work, financial management, and identity.
After the first summer camp using pickleball to connect with his young mentees (which concluded late July 2023), William Freeman, founder of People of Purpose, said, “Pickleball has become my favorite method of bringing these kids together to enhance their lives and guide them in the right direction. We are playing pickleball with a purpose!”
Pickleball has become a vehicle to:
- Connect with these kids through the power of play. “Play” is one way that kids connect and communicate. So, by being on the pickleball court, mentors and community leaders are able to connect and get to know these kids;
- Build confidence and self-esteem. Pickleball is uniquely positioned as a way to build confidence, as it is both doable and challenging. This is a sweet spot to build self-esteem in people. This is fully exhibited in a survey that Coach Cat does with her students. One question she asks is “what did you get from today’s lesson?” One of her students, who was a 9-year-old, answered “today increased my confidence”;
- Share and build life tools. After connecting and getting to know one another on the pickleball court, the kids and the mentors were able to share and discuss life stories and challenges in a “safe space.” Coupled with pickleball instruction, kids can learn leadership, teamwork, competition, fitness, socialization, and fun all on the pickleball court.
- Promote physical activity and socialization. It may go without saying, but pickleball is a fun and engaging sport that encourages kids to be physically active and social. By introducing them to the sport of pickleball—which they can play for life—and by giving them the equipment (every kid went home with a free paddle at People of Purpose, as well as the kids’ clinics by Pickle4), these kids have the tools to continue to be active and engaged in a healthy outlet.
- Be inclusive, while growing the sport. Pickleball is a sport that can be played by people of all ages, abilities, demographics, and backgrounds. It is a unifying game, where all are invited. Plus, by introducing pickleball to kids, we contribute to the growth of the sport for years to come, so even more generations can enjoy these same benefits.
In summary, introducing the sport of pickleball to kids is important because it not only provides numerous physical and social benefits, but also lays the foundation for a lifetime of positive values and healthy habits. Pickleball has the power to transform people for the better. And, according to Coach Cat, who more deserving than our youth?!
To learn more about Youth Pickleball Alliance, donate to the cause, or otherwise get involved in promoting youth pickleball, visit https://ypalliance.com/contact-us/.