Yes, pickleball has had explosive growth, but tennis is growing too, and on a much larger base. Pickleball has a long way to go before it achieves the market penetration of tennis. Tennis is the mature older brother that pickleball aspires to be.
There is a narrative out there that the explosive growth of pickleball is negatively impacting tennis, eating up courts and luring tennis players over to the dark side. There are certainly cases of this, but let’s take a look at the bigger picture which shows the established and mature presence of tennis.
Tennis is growing too
Despite anecdotal evidence of pickleball impacting tennis, according to data compiled by the TIA Association
“…..In 2022, tennis participation increased for the third consecutive year in the U.S. Tennis participation grew by one million players last year with more than 23.6 million people playing the sport. This number, when added to the previous two years, represents an increase of 5.9 million, or 33 percent, since the start of 2020….”USTA
After 10 years of slow or negative growth prior to 2020, the pandemic-effect dramatically helped tennis (and golf by the way). Thus, you have 2 racquet sports showing growth, not one eating another. Pickleball is growing faster, but on a significantly smaller base than tennis.
The tennis industry is strong and mature. In several important ways, it is similar to pickleball: played by all ages, available indoor and outdoor, public and private options to play, professional tournaments. That said, there are established features of tennis that are far ahead of pickleball, and represent ‘next phase’ growth opportunities for the newer sport.
Tennis is established in a variety of ways where pickleball is just starting.
- Strong high school and university athletic programs
- Other junior programs building future players
- High visibility professional tournaments with significant prize money
- Custom-built dedicated facilities both public and private
- Strong history of public funding from municipalities
- Established and publicized data on health benefits
- Extensive body of coaching and teaching pros
It is very early, but pickleball, because of it’s broad appeal, is making strides in each of these areas where tennis is established. This signals a lot of room for growth in the sport. Tennis and other racquet sports are also feeders into pickleball. In that way, the sports are complementary. No, pickleball is not eating tennis, they are co-existing, growing and complementary. Pickleball aspires to achieve the size and maturity of its older brother.
Pickleball Business Advisors is brothers Bill and John Pryor. We provide a variety of consulting services based on extensive experience in fitness business development, and research into the fast growing pickleball marketplace. To initiate a feasibility assessment for your pickleball club, or for other consulting, contact us so we can learn about your project.