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Traveling Picklers

Introducing The Idea: Pushing Pickleball Into The Olympics

by Nisarg Shah on

Hello pickleball enthusiasts! My name is Nisarg and alongside three of my friends, Harrison, Kobe, and Bobby, I will be traveling to Iceland in a few days to spend the summer introducing pickleball to the island nation. Throughout this project, we are excited to be partnering with The Dink to bring a series of periodic blog posts/updates to you in hopes of showcasing the process and keeping you informed (for those of you interested in how we plan on introducing this amazing sport to a country that has never played it)! You can also keep up with this adventure on our Instagram page @travelingpicklers.

Now at this point, you must certainly be wondering “why in the world are these four random guys going to Iceland to spread pickleball??”. And let’s be honest, that’s a fair question! So let’s begin with a bit of backstory as to how this all came about.

Origin Story

The four of us initially became interested in this idea because we are all close friends that recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill (go heels!) together. While at Carolina, we were incredibly fortunate to be a part of the Morehead-Cain scholarship program, which allows students to pursue unique projects related to their passions. With this blank canvas to pursue a cause we all cared about this upcoming summer, pickleball quickly became a front-runner.

Looking for safe ways to spend our time, we had all started playing the sport briefly over quarantine during the COVID-19 impacted summer/fall of 2020. Personally, like many of you, at first glance, I thought the sport was simply a less athletic version of tennis. I remember thinking “man, pickleball is for people that are too old to play tennis - why would I ever choose to play this?!”. By the time the fall of 2021 rolled around, however, the sport was absolutely exploding and I found myself beyond addicted. With it being my senior year of college, I found myself playing both singles and doubles almost every single day and quickly realized just how wrong my initial assumptions about the sport had been.

As I would come to understand, not only is it a sport that requires strong athleticism, stamina/endurance, and hand-eye coordination, pickleball is so great for two distinct reasons: 1) it is a sport that is a great leveler in allowing folks of all ages to play with each other (i.e. grandparents can play it with grandchildren) and 2) it is incredibly social and encourages communities to get outside and active more (without even realizing that they are exercising!). No wonder it is the fastest growing sport in the US!

Taking Pickleball Global

Simultaneously, around this time, one of us also happened to read an article about how pickleball was making a push to enter the Olympics. With 72 countries signed on, the International Federation of Pickleball needed only a few more countries to make an official appeal to propose pickleball be an Olympic sport. As we sat around Harrison’s coffee table brainstorming ideas for the summer, we began to think about how awesome it would be to try and sign up a new country in this effort to put pickleball in the Olympics. Iceland was quickly proposed because it was one of the few countries remaining that had a solid sports infrastructure without any pickleball being played (and okay, I’ll admit it - a tiny bit because we all wanted to visit this spectacularly beautiful country :)).

Having an idea of our end goals, we set out to begin establishing relationships in Iceland that would help us bring pickleball to the land of fire and ice. Spending the better part of two months contacting anyone and everyone we could find online that might have some ability to help, we now have a comprehensive list of Icelandic folks ranging from contacts at the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland to the Icelandic Tennis Association. We will be introducing these individuals in greater detail in future blog posts!

We also wanted to establish connections with industry leading pickleball companies in an effort to bring as much gear/equipment as possible to Iceland. In this regard, we are incredibly fortunate to be working with the following brands (who are also featured on our most recent instagram post): HEAD, Selkirk, Paddltek, Diadem, and Avi Athletics. These companies are at the forefront of innovation in the manufacturing of pickleball equipment and apparel and we can’t wait to show them off in Iceland!

With the connections and the gear necessary to make this project into a reality, we have set out to accomplish the following major goals over the course of this project:

  1. Introduce this incredible sport to as many people as possible in Iceland!
  2. Help create an Icelandic Pickleball Federation in an effort to push pickleball into the Olympics.
  3. Work with Iceland’s sports authorities to increase overall well-being and promote an active lifestyle across age groups through pickleball (more on this to come!).

That’s it for now and I hope this was a good introduction to our project! Looking forward, you’ll be hearing from various members of our team throughout our travels (and we hope to share pictures/content here as well). We are all now in the process of packing up and getting ready to fly over to Iceland in the next couple of days - we will be sure to update you all soon after we land and get settled, but for now adios and happy pickling!

P.S. Please feel free to reach out (nisargshah155@gmail.com or feel free to DM our instagram account) in case you happen to know folks in Iceland that would like to learn/play pickleball. We’ve been amazed at how small a world we live in, finding connections through folks from all over, and would love to hear from you!

- The Traveling Picklers

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