Inclusive sport for everyone "Pickleball"

The allure of racket sports experiencing a rapid surge in participation in U.S.

  • Photograph:Shunsuke Mizukami

In May of last year, members of HERENESS crossed over to New York for shoot. There, they encountered a curious sight: on the sports park facing the Hudson River waterfront, multiple courts lined up, where people of all ages and genders were engaged in a sport that seemed neither tennis nor table tennis. Upon investigation, they discovered it was a sport called 'Pickleball.' This racket sport is hugely popular in America, with the player population doubling in 2022 and recording a remarkable growth rate of 159% over the past three years. What is it about Pickleball that has gained such popularity? Let's explore its charm and potential.

Accessible to Everyone: The Low Barrier of Entry of Pickleball

It seems that the primary reason Pickleball attracts so many people is its high accessibility—anyone can easily start playing. In Pickleball, the ball used has holes in it, so it bounces less and doesn't fly through the air as fast. Additionally, the paddle is shorter and lighter than a tennis racket, making it easier to handle. Moreover, in Pickleball, it's common to serve underhand, which is easier to execute and return. In other words, Pickleball is much easier to learn than tennis and allows players to enjoy the game more quickly.

Furthermore, the small size of the court may also contribute to the appeal of Pickleball. With players closer together, they can enjoy conversations during breaks in the rally. Additionally, because it doesn't require too much movement, even those who are less physically fit can invite friends who may lack confidence in their stamina to play together. It seems like the perfect sport for making friends and deepening those relationships.

*The shoot this time was conducted on a full-size tennis court, but the standard size for a Pickleball court is 13.4 meters long by 6.1 meters wide, the same as a badminton doubles court. The net height is also slightly lower at 86.4cm in the center. There are also items available for sale to mark auxiliary lines on a tennis court for Pickleball.

The scientifically proven health benefits of Pickleball

Pickleball is said to be not only fun but also a sport that can have significant health benefits. According to an article in The New York Times, research conducted by a team at Western Colorado University classified Pickleball as 'moderate-intensity exercise,' and found that players burned an average of about 354 calories per hour of play. Pickleball enthusiasts in the study had an average heart rate of 109 beats per minute during one hour of play, and after completing a six-week program, their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and aerobic capacity significantly improved.

Furthermore, Apple Heart and Movement Study conducted jointly by Apple and Brigham and Women's Hospital, based on Apple Watch data, revealed interesting results showing that Pickleball has positive effects on both the body and mind. The average workout time for Pickleball was found to be 90 minutes, with an average peak heart rate of 143 beats per minute. Compared to tennis, Pickleball has longer play times with slightly lower intensity. Pickleball tends to sustain moderate-intensity exercise for longer periods, which bodes well for its health benefits.

Moreover, among participants who frequently played Pickleball, the indicator suggesting depressive mood was lower at 60.1 percent compared to the general population. It appears that Pickleball could potentially be beneficial for mental health.

From this scientific data, it's evident that Pickleball is not just a trendy sport but a substantial form of exercise that contributes to overall health and well-being.

The Depth of Strategy and Tactics: Pickleball Players Discuss the Charm of Pickleball

This time, the model for HERENESS's SUGARCANE SHORTS is Kenta Miyoshi, a former professional tennis player who is now aiming for the world of Pickleball. Kenta, along with his wife, former pro tennis player Aiko Yoshitomi, is actively pursuing a career as a Pickleball professional and participating in overseas tournaments.

He shared with us, 'The first thing I noticed when I started playing was the sound of the ball. I found the 'thunk' sound quite pleasing. And Pickleball is truly a sport with great depth. Shots like the drop shot near the net require precise calculation, such as how far to hit the ball and whether to aim for the opponent's feet. It demands intricate strategy and tactics. While physical fitness is important, experience, strategy, and intellectual engagement play an even greater role.' He also emphasized the exhilarating sensation and intellectual gameplay involved.

He also enjoys the interesting side effect of connecting with players from other sports. 'The fun of Pickleball lies not only in tennis but also in interacting with players from other sports like table tennis and badminton. It's appealing to learn various strategies while enjoying the game together.'

While the environment for Pickleball in Japan may still be developing, talents like Miyoshi are expected to contribute to its global expansion. From Miyoshi's desire to convey the charm of Pickleball as a pioneer in the tennis world, his passionate dedication to Pickleball shines through.

Connecting Diverse People: Creating a New Community through Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and genders, creating connections across generations in the United States. From children to seniors, Pickleball fosters interactions that transcend age groups. Through a shared hobby, people who may not typically interact find themselves naturally engaging in conversation with smiles on their faces. It seems that Pickleball fosters heartwarming communities.

One reason HERENESS is particularly interested in Pickleball is its inclusivity, where anyone can participate regardless of age, gender, nationality, or athletic ability. HERENESS aims to continue reporting on this emerging sport in Japan, hoping that Pickleball will bring a breath of fresh air to communities and foster connections among diverse individuals.