If you haven’t heard… PICKLEBALL is getting younger and younger.
It is obvious at every tournament and in parks across the country that the amount of young Pickle “Ballers” is growing. Pockets of youth programs are popping up in Florida, Utah, North Carolina and Arizona to name a few. At this year’s US Open, there was even an 8 year old girl who competed!!
In order to grow pickleball, the youth are essential. Addam Shand founder of My Pickleball League in Naples, FL is leading the charge. He is spearheading the efforts in getting children to pick up a paddle and play. This summer, Addam and colleague Jake Jones traveled from Florida to Maine teaching 8,000 children how to play. Yes, 8,000 kids!!
Shand wants to reach as many children as possible and knowing that putting a pickleball program in schools, helps, but is by no means the answer. Therefore, he decided to bring pickleball to summer camps. Camp is a place to try new things without judgment. After speaking with a number of directors at summer camps, it was evident that they wanted to run pickleball programs, but did not know where to begin.
Being able to expose the campers and staff with proper teaching techniques for children was essential. Making all of our games FUN, while at the same time allowing the children to learn the game, has made the inaugural Summer Camp Pickleball Tour a success. When summer camp ends, the children that we have taught will be able to bring their newfound knowledge and excitement of pickleball back to their families and friends at home.
Plans for the summer of 2023 have already begun and the goal for next summer is to reach 30,000 children!!
How It Grows
As the popularity of pickleball continues to increase, the “cool” factor amongst our youth has started to set in. Children originally looked at pickleball as what their grandparents played or what they did for a week in gym class… Now, they see emerging pros that are still in their early teens and celebrities embracing the sport.
In many areas across the country, pickleball has been accepted socially for teenagers to play. This is a HUGE success for the growth and longevity of the sport!!
This is just the beginning. Youth programs are going to be a staple across the country. Parents will now have to juggle going to pickleball practice with that of soccer and basketball.
That being said, there will be growing pains. Having access to local courts, negotiating for court time, finding qualified instructors to teach children (VERY different than adults) and having true practices, not babysitting, will be some of them.
Addam has created a youth program that allows the athletes to be coached by ability, not age or grade.
"It makes NO sense to teach children by their age. That’s just a way for organizers to make their life a bit easier.
US Youth Pickleball
Parents struggle to get their children involved in pickleball. Shand and his team are working on another project, US Youth Pickleball. This is a nonprofit organization that is not looking to be a governing body, but rather a parental resource.
Many parents who have not been exposed to the pickleball world, have no idea what to buy, where to play, who to contact for lessons, where there are tournaments for their children, what pickleball games they can play with their children, etc…
This website will be a valued resource for parents in getting their children involved in pickleball. Stay tuned for the website to be launched later this year!
The bottom line is, we need to make space for our youth. They are a valued asset in pickleball and we need to start recognizing them as part of the pickleball community at large. They are the future of our game!
For more information about youth pickleball visit: www.mypbleague.com .