3 Pickleball players over the age of 70 on why they gravitated to the sport: ‘It’s more than just a game’

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Move over, tennis. People across the country are turning to their recreational sport of pickleball.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, according to 2023 Sports and Fitness Industry Association Senior Participation Report. The report marked The number of pickleball players in 2022 With 8.9 million players in the US

Pickleball can be described as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Instead of a racket, players hit a plastic ball with a paddle, and many people can be on the court at once.. More and more pickleball courts are popping up around the country. Taking empty stores and shopping centers.

In the year In 2021, the largest age bracket of pickleball players was 55 and older, the SFIA 2022 Single Sport Participation Report on Pickleball found.

Don’t miss it. This Company Pays Employees to Play Pickleball: ‘Work Should Be Fun’

To understand why this age group is drawn to pickleball, CNBC Make It spoke to players over 70 about their experiences with the sport and how it affects their overall health and well-being.

Many of the players we met live in California where pickleball is a very popular topic, but especially in areas like Loma Linda. The only blue zone in AmericaWhere people Living longer than most.

Coatsey email, 84

Mylen Kutse has played tennis for most of his life, starting in his twenties. While working at Loma Linda University in California, he also had access to their tennis courts where he played with friends around his age.

“About five to six years ago, one day, a friend of mine started [playing] Pickleball on one of the tennis courts [and] “You can put four pickleball courts on one tennis court,” Coetzee says.

“Look! Come and try this pickleball thing,” I said.

Tennis keeps Kutsey in good shape and helps him maintain his physical health, and pickleball keeps him active as well. But in Kutse’s experience, pickleball is more social than tennis. “I met a lot of people, fun people, and it just sold from there,” he says.

I met a lot of people, fun people, and it was selling from there.

Email Kootsey

84 year old pickleball player

In Redlands, California, where he lives, his pickleball team has worked with the city to develop a group of eight pickleball courts. “When they did that, they built a small space with a roof with a few tables and chairs so people could sit and chat between games,” he says.

“Having more courts has brought more people in. People who don’t actually live in the area have heard about the teams that play there, so we have people coming from the surrounding towns,” Coetzee said.

When asked to pick the best thing he’s gotten out of pickleball, Kotsey says, “It’s a toss-up between exercise and social interaction. Both are things I appreciate.”

Beth Henry, 73

Breaking into pickleball wasn’t an easy transition for Beth Henry and Coetzee.

“I’m not an athletic type of person. Most people who play pickleball are ping pong, racquetball or tennis players. But I’ve never played any organized sports before,” Henry told CNBC’s Make It. “So for me, pickleball was really challenging because I’m not an athlete, so I had to do a lot.”

Henry got into pickleball because many of her friends in Rancho Cucamonga, California were playing the game and she wanted to try it. She was able to find a pickleball team to join at a sports complex in town.

After playing pickleball, Henry began to prioritize her physical health. “It inspired me to hire a personal trainer and become more active,” she says. “One of the things I do is make sure I get 10,000 steps a day, and that’s not only good for me, it helps me play a better game.”

Henry’s pickleball community is much bigger than the first group she joined two years ago. “My husband and I made a lot of new friends. So pickleball was not only a fun game, it was a big social part of my life,” she said.

I have so many new friends that I can’t make new friends anymore.

Beth Henry

A 73-year-old pickleball player

“My husband and I are friends with three other couples, and we go out to dinner together,” she says, through the Henry Pickleball Group. “We’ll take the train and spend the day together in LA.”

Along with her girlfriends, Henry also formed a sub-team at her basketball club called “Chickleball”. The group is about 15 women who meet twice a month to play non-competitive games of pickleball, grab lunch and have fun.

Along with her girlfriends, Beth Henry forms a sub-team at her pickleball club called “Chickleball”.

Courtesy of Beth Henry

Another of her pickleball teams traveled together and had a pickleball cruise. On the side of the sport, Henry herself faced a good problem: “I have too many new friends and I can’t make new friends anymore.”

Ryo Shinagawa, 72

Ryo Shinagawa played tennis for decades before switching to pickleball in 2016. His path to pickleball began when a local newspaper in Corona, Calif., featured a pickleball clinic for beginners at a nearby senior center.

“I said you know what? Let’s go over there and check it out,” Shinagawa told CNBC’s Make It. He didn’t need to bring equipment to attend the 9 am session so he decided to go that same day.

“Now I came, and the gentleman put an oar in my hand, and I played till noon.” [I] I absolutely loved it! So I drove to the sporting goods store and bought a paddle. [I’ve] He’s been playing pickleball ever since.

Ryo Shinagawa played tennis before switching to pickleball in 2016.

Courtesy of Rio Shinagawa

Shinagawa started playing pickleball three to four times a week for about two to three hours a day. After playing a game, he mentally feels “great” because of the endorphins he gets from accomplishing something.

Although he admits that sometimes he feels “physically exhausted”, he always recovers from it and his love for the sport keeps him coming back.

As a Pickleball USA ambassador and certified pickleball instructor, Shinagawa says one of his favorite things about pickleball is the social aspect.

In the past six or seven years, I have made more friends and acquaintances through pickleball than in my life.

Ryo Shinagawa

72-year-old pickleball player



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