Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., with 4.8 million players as of last year according to pickleballplayer.com. In the two years between 2019 and 2021, the number of players increased by almost 40%, and its popularity continues to grow among people of all ages.
I understand why people love to play pickleball. It’s easy on the joints, affordable, social, and easy to learn. So, why in the world is it a controversial sport?
What is Pickleball?
For those not yet familiar with the sport, pickleball is a popular racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Players typically engage in this sport on a rectangular court with a net in the middle, much like a tennis court, but with smaller dimensions. You play the game with a special ball, similar to a wiffle ball, and use solid paddles to hit the ball back and forth over the net. Pickleball is the official name of the sport, but some refer to it as pickle ball, pickelball, or pickel ball.
Why Do So Many People Love Pickleball?
People love pickleball because it’s a fun, social, and easy-to-learn sport. It provides a great workout, can be played by people of all ages and skill levels, and fosters a sense of camaraderie among players. Pickleball is less physically demanding than some other sports like tennis, which is one of the reason some older adults play often.
Why Pickleball Is Unpopular Among Those Who Don’t Play
People who live near pickleball courts object to the noise. They say the near-constant sounds from the courts are so loud they cannot open their windows most of the year. Though the volume is not dangerous to human ears, it still causes a major disturbance.
Have you ever been to an outdoor wedding at a country club? At the last one I attended, the noise from a tennis match during the ceremony was beyond distracting. Considering pickleball is a sport that is similar to tennis, but with a plastic ball and wooden paddle, I understand why noise is a problem. When the plastic and wood connect, they make a distinct popping sound, much louder and at a higher frequency than what you hear during a tennis match. The frequency is a problem because human ears tend to be sensitive to high-pitched sounds.
Pickleball Noise Complaints Need to be Taken Seriously
According to thecrazypickleballlady.com, pickleball sound levels within 100 feet of courts are as loud as the noise you might hear if you lived near a freeway. At 200 feet, the level drops significantly but is still louder than normal conversation. Those who live a bit farther out say the constant and repetitive noise, while perhaps not terribly loud, is still extremely annoying. Homeowners are fighting back, especially those who purchased homes near tennis courts that are now used as pickleball courts. The noise is turning neighbors into activists.
Pickleball games generate loud and annoying sounds. I get it.
I also understand that many older adults love the exercise and community the sport provides and don’t want to stop. It can’t be denied, though, that nearby residents should not be subjected to repetitive and constant noise on a daily basis – that’s enough to make anyone crazy.
If you are a pickleball player, think about replacing your ball or racquet with ones that allow for quieter play. Due to the popularity of the sport, let’s also hope that city-owned pickleball courts decide to install an acoustifence whenever possible. One city-owned park that I know in Tampa, Fl did just that to keep its residents happy.