Keha McKinney

(Charlotte, N.C.) – Pickleball — a game born in 1965 that is often described as a combination of tennis, table tennis and badminton — has now became one of the fastest-growing sports in America.

According to a 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), there are roughly 4.8 million players nationwide and the sport has grown by more than 39% from 2019 to 2021.

Thus, it’s no surprise that players from across the Carolinas often gather at pickleball courts located at Charlotte-area Sports Connection locations to show off their skills.

“What I love about Pickleball is that it’s so inclusive,” said Julia Farella, who has been playing pickleball for the last five years. “It doesn’t matter your age, your height, everyone can come together to play this amazing sport.”

Farella, who said she has grown to love the sport every time she steps on the court, is one of the many participants with Pickleball Charlotte, a group that offers lessons, outings and leagues.

The group formed in 2019 with just a few courts, but has since grown to include two locations with 18 indoor and four outdoor courts. It will open a third location dedicated to Pickleball in the Ballantyne area at the end of the year.

“I love pickleball,” said Roy Van Dyke, a certified instructor with Pickleball Charlotte. “Pickleball is so much fun. Pickleball is something that anybody can play. Old, young, fast, slow; anybody can come on out here and play pickleball.”

Van Dyke has been playing since 2016, later became an ambassador for USA Pickleball and this year, he officially become a certified instructor.

“It’s fantastic exercise,” said Van Dyke, who is also the president of the Beech Mountain Club Pickleball Association.

Players say pickleball is a social game and you will often see people from different walks of life coming together to enjoy the sport.

Wheelchair-athlete Twila Adams said playing pickleball allows her to stay competitive.

“It’s motivating first of all,” said Adams. “We think of people in wheelchairs not being able to accomplish a lot of tasks, but our chairs are our ability, and in this case, my sports chair allows me to compete and play in several different sports.”

In 1994, Adams was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down and when doctors informed her that she would never be able to walk again, she was determined the diagnosis wouldn’t keep her down.

“It took some time to learn to push the chair and hold the racquet and do all of the things necessary to maneuver the chair and actually be a competitor, a pro competitor, but it is worth it,” said Adams.

While some people, including those across the Carolinas, play the sport for fun and exercise, others play in professional tournaments that happen all over the U.S.

For example, there are a number of professional pickleball events scheduled in Texas, California and Florida, over the next few months.