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Pickleball, as many of our readers will already know, is a paddle ball sport that comprises elements of several popular racket sports, including tennis, table tennis, and badminton.
In recent years, pickleball has become increasingly popular in the United States. At the current time, research suggests that over 3.3 million people play pickleball on a regular basis in the U.S.
The increasing popularity of Pickleball and the buzz around the 2021 Olympics has led many people to wonder whether Pickleball is, as yet, an Olympic sport. If not, the big question is: will it ever be?
We’ll be addressing these questions in-depth in today’s article, so stay tuned!
The History of Pickleball
Invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Pickleball was created by three dads who were trying to combat their children’s boredom one summer. Handmade equipment was their original form of fun, but you can now purchase your own set that’s made using professional grade materials. Simple rules coupled with minimal equipment has made this a convenient go-to sport.
What is a Pickleball Court Layout?
A pickleball court is laid out similarly like a tennis court, but it’s the same size as a badminton doubles court (20 x 44 feet). The height of the net is situated at 36 inches, and there is a 7-foot non-volley zone directly in front of the net. You may be able to find dedicated pickleball courts where you’re located, but tennis courts can easily be used.
What Kind of Equipment Would Pickleball Olympics Use?
Each person playing in a pickleball game will need their own paddle. It’s smaller than a standard tennis racquet but not by much. The original paddle was made using wood. Current materials used include aluminum and graphite for a lightweight design. A pickleball is also needed, and it has holes in it. Its color is usually yellow, green or white.
Olympic Sport Prerequisites
Before we reveal whether or not Pickleball is currently an Olympic sport, let’s take a look at the existing prerequisites for a sport becoming part of the Olympics.
For a sport to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics, the Olympic Charter demands that a sport be played by women in at least 40 countries and 3 continents across the globe. The sport must also be played by men in 75 countries and 4 continents. This is a pretty high demand, to begin with.
However, the prerequisites for a sport to be included in the Olympics don’t stop there. The Olympic committee must also come to the agreement that the new sport will contribute ‘appeal’ and ‘value’ to the Olympics.
Finally, the sport cannot be a purely mental endeavor and it must not rely on mechanics. Car racing and chess, for example, cannot be included in the Olympics, despite being otherwise recognized as sports.
The Current Status of Pickleball
So, is Pickleball an Olympic sport? The answer is, not yet.
Pickleball has an International Federation, in which 37 countries are currently involved. That’s 38 countries short of the playing requirement for men, and 2 short of the requirement for women.
With that being said, Africa is the only continent on which Pickleball isn’t being played right now. That means that Pickleball is played on 6 out of 7 continents, which surpasses the continent-based requirements for Olympic inclusion.
When it comes to the other rules that dictate whether a sport can be raised to Olympic level, Pickleball scores relatively highly. It’s not a purely mind-based sport, and there is no mechanical element.
The addition of value and appeal to the Olympics is, of course, quite subjective, but for the 3.3 million people who play Pickleball regularly and for those who enjoy watching matches and tournaments, the appeal and value of Pickleball are certainly clear-cut.
Will Pickleball Ever Be An Olympic Sport?
Just because Pickleball isn’t classified as an Olympic sport yet, doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future! In fact, there are many encouraging signs that Pickleball might be an Olympic sport in years to come.
For one thing, Pickleball already meets the requirement of being played on 3 or 4 continents. Pickleball is already played across the globe, with the exception of Africa.
Admittedly, Pickleball is currently not played in nearly enough countries to be considered for the Olympics. When it comes to men’s Pickleball, the sport would need to be played in an additional 38 countries. For women’s Pickleball, an extra 2 countries would be needed.
However, it’s important to note that both the men’s and women’s requirements need to be met in order for a sport to make it to the Olympics. Therefore, Pickleball will not be considered for Olympic inclusion until 38 more countries adopt the sport.
So, it’s clear that Pickleball still has some way to go before it meets the Olympic prerequisites. Despite this, as we mentioned earlier, 3.3 million people are currently playing Pickleball in the United States. Given that the sport was founded in 1965, that makes Pickleball the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.
If Pickleball continues to become more popular and widespread on a global scale, to the point that it meets these quantitative requirements, it’s likely that the qualitative requirements for Olympic sports (value and appeal) will also be considered to be fulfilled.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the chances of any growing sport being included in the Olympics are enhanced by existing Olympic sports being dropped from the program.
Now, it’s not very common for sports to be dropped from the Olympics. For context, in the 125 years since the first (modern) Olympic games, only 10 sports have been removed from the competition. These include motor boating, cricket, croquet, polo, lacrosse, and tug of war.
However, recently, the Olympic committee has considered dropping some sports to make room for new ones. Wrestling, taekwondo, and pentathlon have all been considered or recommended for dismissal, although ultimately, all have remained in the competition.
All in all, the track record of sports being removed from the Olympics suggests that dismissals in the near future are unlikely.
With that being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be room for Pickleball in future Olympics if its popularity continues to expand.
For example, despite not removing any sports in 2016, the committee voted to add karate, softball, surfing, skateboarding and climbing to the 2020 (2021) games.
Ultimately, while it’s difficult to say how long it will take Pickleball to rise to the level of widespread popularity required by Olympic standards, the rapid progression of Pickleball thus far bodes well for its inclusion in future Olympic games.
Pickleball Olympics Gear
Pickleball clothing is very casual and comfortable. Essentially you’re dressing for the climate where you’ll be playing. Athletic clothing, tennis-style outfits and comfortable sneakers are ideal. If you were to find pickleball in the Olympics, court shoes would be required. Running shoes don’t typically provide enough traction to prevent slipping when quickly moving side to side.
The Rules of Pickleball
Serving in Pickleball
When you serve the ball to start the game of pickleball, it must be served in a diagonal direction. You start with the right-hand square and alternate to the opposite side the next time. Your serve has to go over the non-volley zone in front of the net while landing in the opposite service court.
Serving should be done underhand with your paddle held below your waist. Both of your feet must be located behind the back line of the court. Hit the ball into the air without bouncing the ball, and you will continue to serve until the opposite team wins the ball. If the ball touches the net while landing within the service court, the serve can be switched to the other team. When the switch is made, the player that is located in the right hand side of the court will begin the play.
Volleying the ball in pickleball means that you hit the ball without letting it bounce on the ground first. This is only allowed when your feet are behind the non-volley zone line, which is seven feet behind the net. If you do step over the line on your follow through, this is considered a fault.
Each team that is playing has to play their first shot off the bounce. The receiving team has to let the serve bounce and return the serve bounce before continuing. Once the two bounces have occurred back and forth, the ball has the ability to be played.
There are a number of situations that contribute to a fault being called in Pickleball. This includes touching the non-volley zone on the serve, hitting the ball out of bounds, the ball not clearing the net and volleying from the non-volley zone.
If you’re playing doubles, there is a rotation that occurs throughout the game of pickleball to keep everyone involved. The server will start their serve from the right hand side of the court across in a diagonal motion to the receiver. The ball has to bounce before it’s returned. The double bounce rule is in effect with doubles and the game will continue like normal.
How Do You Score in Pickleball?
Similar to the rules of tennis, you can only score an additional point in pickleball when you are serving. The player that’s serving must continue to be the server until their team experiences a fault. The serve will then move to the opposing team on a side out. Pickleball is played to 11 points, but you must win by two points in order to complete the game.
To bring together the points we’ve discussed today, the bottom line is that Pickleball is not yet an Olympic sport. Before Pickleball can even be considered for inclusion in the Olympics, it will need to be played in at least 38 more countries around the world.
With that being said, the progression of Pickleball to date indicates that the sport has a fighting chance of making it to the Olympics in the future.
As the fastest-growing U.S. sport, already played in 6 out of 7 continents worldwide, Pickleball is likely to continue to gain popularity at an impressive rate.
When Pickleball reaches the threshold of being played by men in 75 countries and by women in 38 countries, it is highly likely that the sport will become a contender for the Olympics.
It’s not actually easy for a sport to make its way into the Olympic lineup. Pickleball is gaining popularity as time goes on, but it has not yet reached the level where we would be asking when will pickleball be in the Olympics? There is an International Federation of Pickleball that regulates the sport, organizes teams / leagues, etc. If they wanted to and felt it would be successful, they could take the necessary steps to increase pickleball’s popularity so it would be considered for the Olympics.
How is this done? Popularizing pickleball is similar to marketing other products and brands. An increase in events, televised pickleball tournaments and a social media presence would make a big difference. The goal is to increase the appeal and acceptance of pickleball in order to get pickleball in the Olympics. There’s also the challenge of increasing pickleball popularity in other countries. Each country would need its own federation or organization dedicated to the game of pickleball.
If you’ve ever turned on the Olympics during prime time hours then you’ve probably watched some of the more popular Olympic sports. This includes the classics like basketball, swimming, tennis and gymnastics. On the off-hours or late in the evening, less popular Olympic sports are shown like golf and rugby. You may have missed those though. They were removed from the Olympics in prior years but made their comeback in 2016. Karate, skateboarding and sport climbing were to be added in 2020.
Much of what pickleball is all about fulfills the criteria that the Olympic International Committee has laid out for the sports that they accept as part of their organization. There are set rules that are followed and that remain consistent throughout the game, pickleball is under the control of an international organization that monitors the game and the game fulfills the anti-doping code.
Not all sports partake in the Olympics, though they’re plenty fun to play and watch. Athletes all over the world still choose to participate in sports that they know won’t be featured at the new Olympic competition. This includes things like American football, cricket, chess, polo, darts and bowling. Pickleball is a fun sport to watch whether or not it’s added to the Olympic lineup anytime soon.
The International Olympic Committee determines what sports will be part of the competition. An international non-governmental sports organization must run any sport that is part of the Olympics. The rules must be thoroughly understood and practiced by anyone that is participating. The Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code must also be adhered to qualify and compete. An Olympic sport must be played in 75 different countries if it’s going to be part of the Olympic Men’s Division. To qualify for the women’s division, 40 countries across three continents is the requirement. The host country must be able to accommodate the sport.
Pickleball has a loyal following of fans, but the International Federation of Pickleball would need to meet the requirement of 75 different countries participating in official competition. The Olympics is one of the most popular sport competitions in the world, and it’s not a club you can easily get into.
Currently, pickleball is not an Olympic sport. It’s popular in the U.S., Europe and various Asian countries, but there has not been enough of a pickleball following to make it an official Olympic sport.
We all have our favorite and least favorite Olympic sports, but there are some ‘sports’ that just stand out as being boring. Not to discount the athletes that train in these areas, but curling, rhythmic gymnastics and race walking often puzzle people watching the Olympics.
Badminton, tennis and table tennis are all official Olympic sports, so I wouldn’t completely discount a pickleball Olympic sport debut in the coming years. However, it may take a few more rounds of the Olympics for Pickleball in the Olympics it to arrive. In the meantime, try playing pickleball to see what all the fuss is about. It’s affordable and easy to get started. You may even have some friends that are interested in learning more just like you are. There may be a local amateur pickleball league in your area that you can join to meet new people and participate in regular pickleball games. While you may not find yourself in the Olympics playing pickleball professionally anytime soon, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great sport that requires physical activity, competition and hard work.