Break out the participation trophies. No, literal ones: children apparently deserve recognition, because there's more of them playing pickleball now than ever.
Recent research from The Aspen Institute shows that 462,000 children between ages 6-17 started playing between 2019 and 2021, which marks an 83% increase.
WaPo coverage of the research cited an interesting reason for the growth:
"One reason for pickleball’s popularity among young people is that a big star in professional pickleball is a teenager: 15-year-old Anna Leigh Waters."
Their research also documents the top five favorite competitive sports among children 6 to 12.
While we don't see pickleball break this list, we also have to recognize that none of these sports are exactly surprising. They come with their own established presence in communities while pickleball plays catch-up:
5. Football (combining tackle and flag)
Pickleball wasn't the only racquet sport with promising positive numbers.
There was nearly a 30% increase in young tennis players who hit the courts regularly from 2019 to 2021.
There was a 29 percent growth of kids who played tennis on a regular basis between 2019 and 2021.
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