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Ageism From Outside Pickleball: What to Say When People Make Assumptions

by Adam Forziati on

Adam from The Dink team here. A recent comment in the Pickleball Forum FB group has us pondering ageism in pickleball – but not necessarily coming from those within the community.

“Today I was telling someone about pickleball. They commented ‘that old people sport.’ This is probably the 100th time I’ve heard something like this. What do you reply?”

This is no doubt a familiar situation for many in the community. But the fact that we have to do any explaining whatsoever reeks of ageism.

As a 30-year-old, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been positively slaughtered by someone twice my age…or even by somebody older than that.

We recently posted a clip on our TikTok and Instagram accounts of a point from a senior match. The rally had everything you’d expect to see in a fast-paced, high-level game with younger pros: a dive, speedups, even a body shot.

What’s more, that clip performed particularly well for us on TikTok, a platform noted for its user base which currently skews younger.

But whether I can be defeated by an older player, or whether a match played by seniors has lots of action; none of that is what really matters.

The phrase “old people” is often used in a negative context when those from outside the sport talk to players about pickleball.

Your first instinct may be to “defend” the game away from what is perceived as a negative stereotype. “Well, the #1 player in the world is 16 years old” may be your response.

But again, that misses the point. Older players don’t need us to defend the game away from associating it with them. Pickleball should be for everybody, regardless of age.

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You can lose up to 7 grams per day. When sodium isn’t replaced, it’s common to experience muscle cramps and fatigue, aka game-killers.

I have at least one-a-day (I'm a raspberry guy), even when I don't play, so it's pretty easy for me to recommend LMNT to The Dink Fam.

It's nice to endorse products that I actually use...

What do you say?

So we asked our newsletter subscribers (btw: what are you even doing if you have not already subscribed?) what they say when someone from outside the sport says something similar about it being an "old person's sport."

Here are some of the replies we received:

Jon R. says, "At TTC in Newport Beach, I bought an AED in early 2021 because there were so many of us over 50 that it was easy to predict a heart attack (and sure enough...). It was exclusively an older crowd in 2020 and 2021 and we're all still there. But we're no longer the only ones. Not a day goes by where we don't look over 35 courts and marvel that it's now half younger people. What was once our exclusive domain is no longer exclusive. We couldn't be happier about it. We were just first."

Barbara W. says, "There is terrible ageism in PB. But I tell those who think it’s an old persons sport that it’s just an easy sport to learn quickly and have fun with friends and family."

Bob H. says, "As a 70 yr. old PB player, I get that 'it’s an old folks game' from a lot of my racquetball playing friends who are MY AGE. I typically laugh it off and just suggest they try it! In my age group, I get a much better workout and social enjoyment from PB as opposed to RB. My session today consisted of approximately 30 people of various ages, 16 to 82 playing at a local recreation center INDOORS."

Ernie M. says, "I LOVE when they say that!!! They are usually young, maybe in their 20's, never played before. I invite them to play against my 85 year old mom and I. Then we'll proceed to smoke them, and tell them to keep practicing and maybe, by the time they get to our age, they'll know how to play the game. LOL. I can't control what people think, so I don't even waste time and energy trying to change people's minds. I just invite them to play and see what a couple of senior players can do."

Cheryl says, "I have had younger players tell us seniors to get off the court and leave it for them, or to 'Let’s go Grandma.' Let’s face it, USA society glorifies youth and ageism is its ugly underbelly. The game itself is skewing younger from product development to marketing and tournaments. There’s room for everyone in pickleball but I for one would love to see more marketing focused towards mature players."

Adam Forziati

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