2023 Pickleball Takeaways

Rapid expansion in this region. Think of Frozen (the movie).

Good morning. If you have time off from work between holidays, we hope you’re taking advantage of it by hitting the courts.

Just yesterday, I (Adam) got some post-Christmas games in. My biggest takeaway: I’m getting good at calling out balls — not only for myself, but for my partner.

Even the tricky ones; the ones that look like they’ll sink in. I know when they won’t, and I know early enough to alert my partner if the ball is within their wingspan.

It’s not a fancy technique-based skill like an ATP or an erne, but there’s great satisfaction in my partner throwing me a grateful grin or a “good eye.” And my ability to let the ball go segues perfectly into today’s Up Your Game below…

In This Issue:
🧊 Think of Frozen on the court
🎉 The biggest takeaway from 2023
🌏 Pickleball is rapidly expanding in this region

Annnnnnd go.

Let It Go, Let It Go

Letting out balls go is an underrated, and acquired skill. It’s not always easy.

Sometimes, it’s the ole’ ego rearing its head. Yes, the bangers are annoying and yes, it’s satisfying to prove to them that they’ll need more than power to beat you.

But maybe take some advice from a Disney classic (classic according to this generation) and your niece's favorite soundtrack. Just let it go.

Paddle technology has made the game faster than ever. Paddles are engineered to provide as much power as possible.

At the amateur level, the addition of power usually means a loss of control. Most players aren't dialed enough to hit the ball as hard as they can AND keep it in the court.

As a rule of thumb, any big forehand windup from mid-court should automatically cue you to let the ball go. If they happen to make the first one, so be it. If the second one lands in, too, then it’s time to start blocking.

But generally, a mid-court wind up is sending the ball long 99 times out of 100. Let it go.

But a big wind up from anywhere should signal to you that it’s time to make a judgement call. If you're the type of player who wants to prove their mettle by hitting every ball back, you're probably giving up free points.

You need to start taking chances and let the ball go:

  • It's important to train your eye to see which balls are going out and which ones are staying in

  • The only way to learn is to see it for yourself

  • As the saying goes, "You'll never know until you let it go"

Above all else, simply keep it top of mind. Be aware. New opponents can create chaos - you aren’t used to their style. Similarly, tournament play lends to nerves, and it takes composure to remember to slow down, think and play your game.

It may seem obvious, but watch any amateur game, and you'll surely see at least one out ball kept in play. Start being the player that lets out balls go and make your opponent think twice before pulling the trigger.

Bold. Vibrant. Functional.

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Obvious But Important

Between pro pickleball drama and the sport's global growth, 2023 was a momentous year for pickleball:

  • All three of the major pro leagues announced expansions in their programming tailored toward growing the sport internationally, as well as among high school & college age groups

  • Colleges themselves finally moved the needle towards establishing a proper independent collegiate league, with some schools offering pickleball scholarships

All of these stand to benefit pickleball's expanding demographics...which leads us to our main point: pickleball is getting younger.

That won't sound surprising if you've been to your local courts lately. Several reports predicted that the 25-40 age range is the fastest-growing segment of the sport's demographics, and you can see it in the people showing up to open play.

We asked you for your biggest 2023 takeaways – and unsurprisingly, many responses focused on the growing diversity in age:

So many new players and new venues. Age demographics trending down quickly.

The growth has been astonishing near me, especially in the younger ages.

We should note that the 50 and older crowd made pickleball what it is today. We're not suggesting that it's inherently a positive or negative that the sport is trending younger by the month – simply that the growth itself is a positive.

If anything, these changes help the sport escape the outdated and ageist notion that "it's a game for old people" (not that it was ever a bad thing that pickleball is popular among the ‘old heads’, as the kids say).

Read what The Dink’s employees had to say about the industry in 2023 here.

A Hotspot for Pickleball Growth

About that global growth we mentioned above…would you believe Nepal has an upcoming national tournament?

I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if you read our post from earlier this year about pickleball arriving in Bhutan, a neighboring South Asian nation.

South Asia is actually a huge area of growth for the sport:

  • Pickleball found its stronghold in the region in India 10 years ago with the formation of the All India Pickleball Association

  • Since then, half of the 8 South Asian nations have either founded national pickleball organizations or have at least received permanent courts for residents, including: Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and India

  • Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Sri Lanka are the holdouts thus far, but that may change within months

Back to Nepal: their pickleball association will host the Nepal Open International Pickleball Tournament in March 2024.

According to the association, 120 players will compete in divisions of 19+, 35+, 50+, and 60+ years.

Players from the USA, Spain, the UK, India and Thailand will challenge local talent in the tournament.

First of Its Kind


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Pickleball’s Global Roll Out

Rob and Stone have their ear to the ground on the international game and the efforts of the World Pickleball Championships. Rob attempts to convince Adam to make the trip overseas to the Indian Open.

The boys want to help your game and dish out 4 tips to get better at everything. Plus be one of the first to learn about the IFR retreat planned for next year.

Watch here or listen here.

A review from the Dink Fam...

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