I have no idea how many pickleball players are living along our Delaware and Maryland pickleball coast. I can tell you — a great many. Swarms! And they are buying swarms of pickleball products.
A smaller tennis shoe company decided to test market a pickleball shoe this past summer, and they put 45,000 pairs in their warehouse and sold them via their website. They completely sold out in two months. The same company now plans to introduce a better model in January, and will put 10 times that many pairs in their warehouse.
And it is apparently a good thing. Folks below us in the Carolinas did an analysis and concluded that most of their regional injuries are caused by inappropriate footwear. Wear court shoes! Run cross-country in cross-country shoes, jog in running shoes, walk in walking shoes, but leave all of them home when you play pickleball! They say it isn’t the fall that gets you, but the destructive power of the sudden stop when your head hits the court surface.
A tennis shop in the center of the country decided to sell paddles last year and was pleased with almost 300 paddles sold. This year, after three-quarters of the year, they had sold 4,000 paddles. Every sector of pickleball is experiencing this growth. Every venue here has expanded, yet the sessions are still full.
It was only four years ago that we organized beginner clinics all across the area. Then, I knew every pickleball player. I even knew all their names. Well, to be accurate, nicknames! There was Bob, Big Bob, Tall Bob, Too-Tall Bob, Extra-Wide Bob, Left-Handed Bob, Speedy Bob...
Back then, we carried our own pickleball nets and had to set them up, and then line the court with tape. We normally could do it in eight minutes.
“Hey Bob, take the net out of the bag. Too-Tall, tape the baselines. Extra-Wide, tape the sidelines. Hey, Talkative Bob, help us out here! Hey, Speedy Bob, dig out the pickleballs.”
Eight minutes! Now we simply show up and play!
It’s not all perfect. Some players are complaining and not being the best of the pickles in the jar, if you get my drift. I suggested that the venues in 2020 begin to offer a two-tier pricing system. It would go something like this: “The price for this session is $10 if you want to come in to complain and be nasty, or the price is $5 if you want to come in, play pickleball and save the commentary for après-pickleball.”
There could be even more pickleballers, but a great many folks have taken off now for their favorite pickleball communities down in the warmer climates. Some are even moving down there permanently, because we haven’t stayed abreast here in Delaware. Still, there are swarms.
But in 2020, we will need to do an accounting of the size of our pickleball community to figure out exactly how many pickleballers we have living here year-round. I will be asking you each to stand and be counted so we can give accurate information to potential investors and politicians.
I want to thank the Coastal Point for giving pickleball newspaper space when we had an important message to send out to the pickleball world, because there are other interesting activities along our pickleball coast competing for community attention.
Finally, I want to thank so many of you who have assumed volunteer leadership roles in local pickleball to keep the sport growing. If you are like me, it is a good feeling to know you are helping so many people improve their health while meeting friendly new friends.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point