In 2021, we wrote on the emerging popularity of pickleball, the game with the funny name (http://bit.ly/3ImGCIR). At that time, when we mentioned pickleball, many people we met around town would ask, “What’s that?” Now, when we mention it, we’re asked, “Where do you play?”
To best explain the growth of this sport since our last report, we sourced data from the Association of Pickleball Professionals. In January, the organization reported to CNBC that more than 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022. Earlier data estimated participation in the sport at 5 million players in 2021. We reached out to prominent members of the pickleball community in and around Woodstock to hear about their observations of the growth of the sport.
Acworth resident Antonio Pullen, co-founder of the instructional organization Dinkin’ and Bangin’, said pickleball has become more than just a sport; it has become a community-building activity that brings people of all ages and backgrounds together. Its inclusive nature, easy-to-learn rules and fast-paced gameplay make it the perfect sport for socializing, exercise and friendly competition.
One of USA Pickleball’s Cherokee County ambassadors, coach Jerry Fronger, has been working with Woodstock Parks & Recreation as the department grows the pickleball programs at Dupree Park. Jerry also is working with ALTA (Atlanta Tennis Association), which has announced its inaugural pickleball season, coming this summer. Jerry believes organized league play will be very popular with the pickleball community.
Yvonne Dewey, a coach who has been instrumental in organizing junior clinics in the community, loves the family aspect of the sport. Yvonne and her husband, Mike have two boys, and they love playing together. Whether on vacation or in Woodstock, she is seeing more and more family pickleball being played.
We asked coach Wendy Brown, who switched to pickleball six years ago after playing tennis for 30 years, what she sees as the future of the sport. Speaking as an instructor and competitive tournament player, she thinks pickleball will retain its recreational element. But, with it now being a professional sport, the future is the Olympics! The process for bringing a new sport to the Olympics is quite lengthy … maybe 2030?
Nationwide, pickleball is attracting star athletes, ranging from LeBron James to Patrick Mahomes, who have invested in the purchase of Major League Pickle (MLP) professional teams. Twelve MLP teams began the 2023 season with big-name sponsors and prime-time media coverage. As pickleball commentator Brandon Mackie said, “MLP stands to increase (the) popularity (of pickleball), and launch the sport to unprecedented heights.” And, we agree. Also launching this year is the National Pickleball League (NPL), which will feature six teams from across the country, all with players over the age of 50.
We just love pickleball. It truly is a great community-building sport, and we hope to see you on the courts around Woodstock, enjoying pickleball as much as we do. Pickleball? Let’s go!
– Mike Walls and Lin Mummert are trying to promote a good, positive outdoor experience for the community. Visit the Pickle Brookshire page on Facebook.
Places to Play
In addition to the pickleball courts at parks around Cherokee County, many neighborhoods have courts and programs. For more information about tournaments and places to play, join the Woodstock/Cherokee Pickleball Facebook group or visit www.pickleheads.com.
Pickleball courts are available for free play on a first-come, first-served basis. Most courts also can be reserved, for a fee.
- Cherokee Veterans Park in Canton has two permanent pickleball courts, as well as four courts lined and shared on tennis courts. They can be reserved through the Cherokee Tennis Center at 770-592-4582 or reservemycourt.com.
- Kenney Askew Park in Canton has six designated courts. To reserve, contact the Cherokee Tennis Center. For open-play times, visit http://bit.ly/3kO3Q2Q.
- Dupree Park in Woodstock has six courts. Woodstock residents can reserve a court at http://bit.ly/3JaQ83b. Visit http://bit.ly/3KVsh9g for Woodstock Parks and Recereation’s Discovering Pickleball, Practice and Play, and league programs.
- There are two permanent courts at 200 Civic Drive in Ball Ground. To reserve a court, visit http://bit.ly/3SQychx. For open-play times, visit https://bit.ly/41LiwQE.
- The L.B. “Buzz” Recreation Center at Cherokee Veterans Park has open-play pickleball times in the gym. Check the calendar at http://bit.ly/3SL4I4A.
- The YMCA in Canton is bustling with indoor play at designated times during the week: https://cantonfamilyymca.org/pickleball.
- Possible additions to Cherokee Veterans Park include additional tennis and pickleball courts, a baseball/softball complex and a large community pavilion (http://bit.ly/3ZkukYI).
- Pickleball courts also have been proposed in the NE Cherokee County Parks Plan, specifically in E.W. & Edith Cochran Park in Free Home. The plan was approved in May 2022 and is estimated to be fully completed by 2032 (http://bit.ly/3ZVTOf1).