First off, let me start this article by saying #pickleballtothemoon I'm as excited as anybody else to see pickleball's continued growth. I first picked up a paddle in 2013, and it's mind blowing to see how far this sport has come.
What could stop pickleball's meteoric ascent? Viewership. Pickleball videos seem to perform well on YouTube, but live viewership numbers aren't growing the way that enthusiasts would like. High profile matchups at high profile events seem to be drawing ~2,000 viewers, far from the amount necessary to garner consistent TV coverage.
What can be done to make the sport more viewer friendly? I have a couple of ideas:
Pickleball is not tennis. I played tennis. I wasn't nearly as good as most of the pro tour players, but I played in college. The cheering rules suck. Who decided that you can only cheer in between points? What if somebody hits a sick shot in the middle of a point?
In basketball, when somebody blocks a shot, the crowd goes wild. If somebody makes an incredible get, I think that the crowd should go wild too! The Big 12 Conference allowed for cheering back in 2015, and they noted a large increase in attendance. But wouldn't it be distracting to the players? We're professional athletes. I'm sure we can figure it out.
Paddle and Ball Technology
What's the worst part about watching pickleball? The seemingly never-ending dink rallies. The best part of pickleball? The crazy reflex volleys. Anybody can appreciate the quick exchanges. First time pickleball viewers have no appreciation for dinking. Incentivize speed ups. This can be done by making the ball harder and faster, and/or continuing to allow advances in paddle technology. If I can better control my speed up, I will be more inclined to do so, and the viewers will get to see more of the coveted hands battles.
Different Balls for Different Conditions
Why is it that the US Open is notorious for long rallies, and Tournament of Champions is known for first strike play? The conditions have a huge impact on the ability to attack. Tune in next time for a more in depth explanation of how conditions affect play.