Central New York, Sports, Things to do

The Fastest Growing Sport in Central New York

Pickleball: The Fastest Growing Sport in Central New York

By Alison Caliguire SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Pickleball is a fast-growing sport with an unusual name.

It’s a combination of ping pong, tennis and badminton.

All you need to play is a wiffle ball, a paddle and a net.

According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), former Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum invented the game in 1965 in Washington State.

They wanted a game the whole family could play in the backyard.

Pritchard’s dog loved to chase the ball, so he decided to name the game after his dog, Pickles.

Across the country, the number of places that offer pickleball has doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 in just eight years, and nearly 30 of those places to play are right here in Central New York.

The Cicero Family Sports Complex offers pickup pickleball six days a week.

Five years ago, there were only half-a-dozen people who played pickleball in Cicero, but now there are hundreds of players, according to USAPA Ambassador Jon Cooley

“It’s a very infectious sport when you start playing because almost anyone can do it,” said Cooley.

According to the USAPA, 75 percent of core pickleball players are 55 years of age or older.

“It’s usually the senior set,” said Debbie Cooley, Jon’s wife and fellow pickleball player.

“And a lot of times tennis players who have had hip surgery, knee surgery and can’t cover the distance on a tennis court.”

The court is smaller, making pickleball a game for everyone.

Debbie says the game isn’t just about athleticism.

“It really turns into a chess game; it’s almost like thinking three hits ahead of what you’re doing,” said Debbie.

The game is also marketed as more social, something that appeals to retired seniors.

A social game like pickleball, though, still appeals to younger folks, like Daniela Brawdy.

She moved to Central New York from Germany three years ago.

Brawdy started playing pickleball just last week.

She says one of the things that drew her to the sport was the social aspect.

“It’s hard to meet anybody, and like, you know, get into some things, so it’s really nice to get to know all the new people here,” said Brawdy.

On the court, it doesn’t matter where you come from; all that matters is your love of the game.

“But ya come here,” said Debbie, “you don’t know if someone was a CEO or mopped floors.”