Phases of new pickleball players

Confusion, Enlightenment, Education, Obsession, Lifestyle

Note: recent data from SFIA indicates there is currently a shortage of roughly 25,000 courts in the U.S. —- these courts are needed to fulfill demand. One interesting explanation of this incredible surge in demand, is to look at the phases a new pickleballer goes through. Think of your own experience!

By definition, every pickleball player has a first day, first week, first month, first year.  Athletic levels vary, skill levels vary, ages vary,  but I’ve observed a definable series of phases that new players experience.  We all go through them at varying speeds and intensity.


Yes, confusion.  About the weird paddle and ball, about the kitchen line, about where to stand, about the scoring and about why it’s so popular!   Hopefully the first folks you play with are gentle with their coaching and remember their own newbie confusion.   The good news is that after a few awkward games, the confusion melts away, and you can just focus on hitting good shots.  The fun stuff.


The game clicks, you realize a) how fun it can be and b) that with some work, you could be pretty good.  While you occasionally hit amazing shots, you realize in this phase that other players hit more amazing shots than you do.   Thus they are winning more than you.  Hmmm there is more to this game than meets the eye initially.  You can be good, but it’s going to take some work, and a ton of court time! 


So you start to educate yourself.  By observing other players, by YouTube instruction, by reading and learning.   Your initial education process tends to focus on the fundamentals of hitting good shots and on basic tactics (stay low, move your feet, vary speeds, learn drop shots, improve backhand, serve deep etc.).  Once you make progress here, you realize that to beat good players, you also need to use strategy…aha!


Once you cease to be confused, know where to stand, understand the rules, and start thinking strategically, something exhilarating happens:  you start to hit amazing winning shots admired by your co-players.  For many it is the only time in ANY sport that they have done something other players call amazing.  It is really fun. This is the beginning of obsession (some would say addiction).  A danger in this phase is playing so much you risk injury, or in some cases divorce.  Be careful here.


Not everyone makes it to this stage but many do. Your daily life, your travel and a major chunk of your mental energy and leisure time start to be heavily influenced pickleball.  Here you download apps to find games, look at pickleball camps, cruises and vacations, and if you’re an entrepreneur you consider starting a pickleball business of some kind.

If you do end up starting a pickleball business, knowing these stages will help you develop tap into your customers’ needs as they move through the phases.

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.

Author: Bill

Passionate pickler, entrepreneur, experienced fitness industry executive, startup specialist, business model consultant, mentor and advisor. Contact me to brainstorm, discuss or commiserate! .

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