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Why Has Pickleball Become a Controversial Sport?

pickleball noise

 

 

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 almost 40%, and it’s 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?

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 wood 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.

Complaints about noise prompted the closure of some pickleball courts, and forced other municipalities to restrict the hours people can play. Some homeowners even filed lawsuits for violation of noise bylaws.

Solutions for pickleball noise

Pickleball is a fun game, enjoyed by many older adults.  For that reason, it makes sense to think about ways to remedy the situation.

One affordable and effective solution is to change the type of ball you use. Balls made of foam, such as these from GopherSport, are made from a light and soft material, and are much quieter than regular balls. 

Another realistic option is to use a quieter paddle. Many excellent paddles on the market today have a noise-reducing function. Here’s a list of the five best quiet pickleball paddles selected by Pickleball.mate.

The third solution, installing an acoustifence, is not necessarily a simple or inexpensive one. And it is likely not one you can implement yourself on a public court. Designed originally to isolate offshore oil-rig sounds, this type of fence absorbs noise and prevents sound from traveling outside the court area. 

Quash Pickleball Noise with Acoustifence® – USA Pickleball

The bottom line

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.

 

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