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Move over Padel, it’s Pickleball time now

LeBron James was the latest to invest in the new sport of the moment, confirming it as a global phenomenon

Move over Padel, it’s Pickleball time now LeBron James was the latest to invest in the new sport of the moment, confirming it as a global phenomenon

Another sport is about to threaten the supremacy of football pitches in Italy. After the unchecked success of Padel, which in a very few months has become a veritable lifestyle phenomenon, the next trend on the launching ramp is related to this strange combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton named after the boats that arrive last at a regatta. Pickleball was in fact invented on Bainbridge Island, Washington state, during the summer of 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum to entertain their respective children, and over the years it has grown into a full-fledged sports movement that can count on 5 million practitioners worldwide. 

After taking root mainly in the western United States, Pickleball has been named the fastest-growing sport by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association in the past two years. It can now count on a developed professional league-the Major League Pickleball (MLP)-thanks in part to the interest and investment of prominent figures in U.S. sports, most recently none other than LeBron James. The Lakers outfielder along with his friend and CEO of his SpringHill Company Maverick Carter, Kevin Love and Draymond Green purchased an MLP club, which will expand to 16 teams in 2023. This is hardly the first time James has invested in a sport other than basketball, having bought stakes in both Liverpool FC, the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins through Fenway Sports Group. 

LeBron James' investment will further popularize the name of the sport, which has all the credentials to make its way to Europe as well, following in the footsteps of its Spanish counterpart. Compared to Padel, Pickleball can rely on less infrastructure and less bulky courts, as well as requiring a more controlled physical effort that makes it suitable for all ages. The court is that of Badminton, on which it was invented in 1965 to compensate for the absence of a shuttlecock, measuring 6.1 meters by 13 meters that is used for both singles and doubles. The net is 91.44 centimeters high at the ends and 86.36 centimeters in the middle, and the plastic game ball weighs between 21-29 grams and measures 7.3-7.62 centimeters in diameter. The paddles used are really paddles or padels, even squarer and similar to the ends of oars. 

The game is usually won by the individual or team that first scores 11 points having at least two points to spare. Only the serving team can score points, as they once did in volleyball before the removal of the ball change. Once the serving team wins a rally, it gets the point and the players of the same team in the case of doubles switch sides so that the same server serves on the other side of the court. If the serving team loses the rally, everyone stands still and the serve passes to the next player in the rotation. The ball can be hit on the volley or after a bounce but never while the player is inside an area called The Kitchen, which occupies the portion of the court below the net to avoid close conclusions. 

Simple and clear rules that make the game accessible to everyone, even first-time players without great athletic ability, and are ensuring its strong success. As the Padel explosion taught us, the pandemic has reshaped our habits and daily routines toward new types of sports. Thus Pickleball sums up the possibility of active outdoor workout with friends and at the same time is extremely profitable for those who own the courts due to the limited size and meager equipment needed. So don't be surprised to see more and more people even in Italy practicing this strange sport invented during a summer Sunday on an island in front of Seattle.