Is beach tennis in danger? Pickleball gets a fever and wants to end it

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates doesn’t know of a better way to spend a summer afternoon. It’s a beautiful business for billionaire investor Marc Leary of Avenue Capital Group. LeBron James, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, finds it amusing. In the opinion of former Goldman Sachs partner Brian Levine, the exercise unites people. And actress Eva Longoria was thrilled to join the team.

They… and Super Bowl champion Tom Brady; host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres; actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx and Owen Wilson; Olympic medalist Michael Phelps; socialite and businesswoman Kim Kardashian; actresses Emma Watson and Selena Gomez; Tennis star Serena Williams and…about 9 million other Americans are all pickers.

“Pickler”, is one who plays pickleball. A “pickler” is one who invests (and earns a lot of money) in the “sensational game” of the moment. With a tennis-like net, ping-pong-like rackets, badminton-like courts and a ball like no other; plastic, hollow and full of holes; The sport is growing fastest in the United States – and has a growing fan base around the world. There are 11 points for the serviceman in the match, but you must lead by two points to win.

event examples? Between 2021 and 2023, some of the best teams in Major League Pickleball (MLP) are set to appreciate 9,900%. Estimated to be worth $64.65 billion in 2022, the global pickleball equipment market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 9% over the next decade to reach $155.4 billion. There are over 100,000 courts in the US. In just two years, the number of countries affiliated with the International Pickleball Federation grew from 20 to 70. Brazil is one of them.

The sport arrived here about seven years ago through Governor Valladares and, by the way, the headquarters of the Associação Brasileira de Piquelbol. Famous for “exporting” Brazilians to the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, the Minas Gerais city is now making headlines again for “importing” pickleballs. With nearly 2,000 practitioners in the country (and counting…), the sport is well on its way to dethroning beach tennis as the choice of the Brazilian elite.

The sophisticated Clube Atlético Paulistano and Clube de Campo de São Paulo and the Jockey Club in Rio already offer courts and tournaments for their members. luxury developments, such as Beyond the Club, “elevated experience” clubs by BTG Actual Asset Management, Realty Properties and KSM; And the São Paulo Surf Club of the JHSF also included pickleball in their games.

This is similar to the North American movement, where sports are reconfiguring real estate launches. Next on the 23rd, swimmers César Cielo will inaugurate the Sharks Arena in Piracicaba, in the interior of São Paulo. The focus is on the paddle, but there will be no shortage of pickleball courts.

José Eduardo Guilgar opens the first pickleball-only academy in São Paulo
José Eduardo Guilgar opens the first pickleball-only academy in São Paulo

Coming from the financial market, businessman José Eduardo Guilgar recently inaugurated the first academy in the city of São Paulo solely focused on the sport, the Pickleball Point Arena, strategically located in the area of ​​Engenheiro Luís Carlos Berrini Avenue, a stronghold of large corporations. situated at.

At 66, Gilgar is one of the people who introduced pickleball to Brazil. how do you tell neophyteHe learned about the sport in 2018, when he visited his daughter in Manhattan Beach, California. He was happy. “It became an addiction,” he summarizes.

A lover of sports of all kinds (“despite doing nothing right”), the businessman has a few hypotheses to explain the fascination so many people have with pickleball. Firstly, it is very easy to learn how to play. “Aside from the learning curve of golf, which is awful”, he compares.

Since the ball is made of plastic and has holes in it, the speed is slow. And, since the court is smaller, smaller than a tennis court for example, there is less ground to cover. In general, when practicing in pairs, the score becomes 11. As the game ends more quickly, there is more rotation between teams, which facilitates social interaction – much appreciated by the players.

“Compared to traditional racquet sports, pickleball is less expensive, requires less space, and may be more compatible with the aches and pains that come with age,” argues West Virginia University sociology professor Josh Woods. , in the article “The Difficulties of Pickleball”, ascend to mainstream success, to stage Conversation,

$100K to $10M

No wonder, for a long time, in the United States, the activity was carried out mainly by retirees. “About half of all pickleball players saw Apollo 11 land on the moon,” quipped Woods, author of Emerging Sports as Social Movements.

But the game is refreshing. According to the latest report from the Sports and Fitness Association of the United States, the age group that is seeing the most growth is athletes between the ages of 25 and 34. The American player profile is that of a white man with a higher education and earning more than US$100,000 per year.

Courthouse Complex in Columbus, Ohio.  There are over 100,000 pickleball courts in the US
Courthouse Complex in Columbus, Ohio. There are over 100,000 pickleball courts in the US

Pickleball was created about 60 years ago, but with the new coronavirus pandemic, the game has exploded. Many saw sport as an opportunity to engage in group physical activity outdoors, without breaking social distancing and that was accessible to all – young and old, athletic and sedentary.

What was seen from then on was the rapid growth of the sport, with a large number of businesses springing up around the activity. In 2021, billionaire Marc Leary, co-founder and CEO of multinational private equity and hedge fund Avenue Capital Group, was one of the first to invest in sports.

Along with former tennis player James Blake, he paid US$100,000 for a team in the newly formed MLP. in an interview with bloomberg television, Last May, the businessman celebrated: At present, the transaction cost will not be less than 10 million US dollars. He said, “I want to be able to invest in a team that would be worth US$50 million or US$100 million today and be worth US$500 million or US$1 billion in five or ten years.”

For Larry, currently, Pickleball promises more lucrative returns than the American professional basketball league, the NBA. And look, he already had a share of the Milwaukee Bucks; Sold about three months ago. Behind the investor was a group of celebrities, businessmen and financiers.

In a video on TikTok posted in October 2022, former American football player Tom Brady announced the acquisition of an MLP team. He says, “I was looking for a way to extend my sports career beyond the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s!” “And I think I found the answer: Pickleball. I am very happy to announce that I am now a part of the MLP family. I will dominate the game.”

Racket created by actor and entrepreneur Jamie Foxx: $150
Racket created by actor and entrepreneur Jamie Foxx: $150

A month earlier, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, along with childhood friend Maverick Carter, had also purchased the New York Hustlers team in the league. The value of the transaction was not disclosed, but the investment came through family office LRMR Ventures.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, retired tennis player Travis Rettenmaier, actress Eva Longoria and former model and businesswoman Heidi Klum, among others, are now happy owners of MLP teams.

“We always say that pickleball brings people together, and this list of leaders from a wide variety of industries is a strong testament to that philosophy,” argues Brian Levine, former Goldman Sachs and current strategic advisor to MLP.

Between 2021 and today, the number of teams in the American League has increased from eight to 24. The 2023 season is to feature six major events with prize money of $5 million.

Gary Vaynerchuk, owner, entrepreneur and author of New Jersey 5, puts it plainly: “This is not football. This ain’t basketball, a sport where your knees ache like mine even at the age of 47. Pickleball is a game for everyone from the ages of 8 to 88.”

fashion game goes into fashion

Actor Jamie Foxx, an Oscar winner for his role in “Ray”, has launched a brand of pickleball racquet, The Best Paddle -US$150. Sport is also invading fashion. If the tennis uniform is bound by a series of rules, “picklers” are free to abuse colors, patterns, and textures. All tastes are welcome, even matching flamingo and cow prints.

American stylist Stacy Bendet, owner of the trendy Alice + Olivia, created a capsule collection in 2022 with leftovers from other creations. It was a success, selling out almost immediately in the Hamptons, one of the world’s most expensive areas in New York State, where families like the Royces of the “Heirship” series often visited. Stacy will now repeat the dose this summer. Like them, other brands also joined the race. Among the big ones are Italian Fila and Canadian Lululemon.

pickles the dog

This game was invented keeping the whole family in mind. In the summer of 1965, after a round of golf, Republican Congressman Joel Pritchard (1925–1997) and businessman Bill Bell (1923–2006) visited their bored wives and children at the politician’s home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington. Found. In fact, last year Governor Jay Inslee declared pickleball the official state sport.

Pickleball Fashion;  Fun Uniform Made by Alice + Olivia
Pickleball Fashion; Fun Uniform Made by Alice + Olivia

Coming back… Since the Pritchard property had an old badminton court and they couldn’t find a complete set of rackets, they decided to improvise with ping pong. He did not even have a tennis ball or a shuttlecock and resorted to a small plastic ball, which was part of a children’s toy.

The following weekend, naval officer Barney McCallum (1926–2019) joined his friends and the three made the first pickleball rule. name of the game? A tribute to the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who ran after the ball while they played.

Over time: It was the Republican congressman who introduced the game to William Gates (1925–2020), the father of Microsoft co-founder. That’s why billionaire Bill is proud to be an “early adopter” of the game; A “Picker” for over 50 years.

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