The Daily Gamecock

Column: Students should play pickleball to expand their physical, social boundaries

<p>A photo illustration of a person holding a pickleball racket and ball over the front of a net on Feb. 13, 2024. The sport of pickleball has seen a recent increase in popularity throughout the United States.</p>
A photo illustration of a person holding a pickleball racket and ball over the front of a net on Feb. 13, 2024. The sport of pickleball has seen a recent increase in popularity throughout the United States.

Pickleball has recently garnered immense popularity in the U.S. The sport attracts people with its methodical movements and various health benefits. College students should take up pickleball in their free time to help expand their social circles and have fun while exercising.

CNN reported last March that pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America. The number of players has grown by 159% from 2019 to 2022, with approximately 8.9 million in the country. 

The game consists of lightweight paddles and a perforated plastic ball that players must hit over a net in the center of a court. It can be played in singles or doubles matches, just like a tennis match. The game goes to 11 points, and the winner must win by a 2-point lead.

Pickleball is a sport that is easy to adapt to. The court is small, the paddles are short and the ball is not as bouncy as a tennis ball, which makes the game easier to manage. It doesn’t require as much running or fast reflexes, either.

Donald Taylor, the instructor of USC's pickleball course, said he knew nothing about the sport before he started playing it. But he instantly took a liking to it because of its similarities to both tennis and ping-pong, he said.

"About seven years ago, I was shooting basketball on a court at the Jewish Community Center in Columbia. And these very old gentlemen come and start putting a net up and basically kicked me off the court," Taylor said. "And the guy goes, 'Hey, would you want to play pickleball?' And I said, 'What the heck is pickleball?' And then I started playing and fell in love with it." 

Pickleball is often associated with being played by older generations, according to a study done by the Medical University of South Carolina. But it really has no age restriction, as anyone can enjoy the simplicity and relaxed manner of the game.

“You don't have to be in crazy physical shape to play pickleball, and it helps you stay active. I think it's pretty good,” said Austin Cordell, a third-year finance student. “I think that's why it's so fast growing right now.” 

A 2023 article published by Tallahassee Memorial states that a game of pickleball can help participants strengthen the muscles in their core, upper body and lower body while increasing their exposure to aerobic exercises.

The sport can help college students achieve their personal fitness goals, whether it be burning more calories throughout the day or building their muscular strength as a whole.

According to a 2022 study conducted by W.M. Denning, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University, playing pickleball for half an hour can help someone burn 36% more calories than they would at their average walking pace within 30 minutes. 

Not only has pickleball proven to have physical health benefits, but it is also a great way to socialize with other people who enjoy the sport. 

“When I play in a public court, everybody’s really nice. It's an easy way to also include social activity, not just physical activity,” said Grant Reagan, a third-year mechanical engineering student. “You get to talk to people, meet new people.”

Taylor said he has made many new friends from playing on the pickleball court. 

“I've gotten to know a lot more different people outside of my other social circles. So this just brings in a whole other realm of folks to get to know and hang out with and have a good time,” Taylor said. 

There are multiple ways in which USC students can learn more about pickleball, such as joining the university's intramural pickleball league, taking the university’s pickleball course, PEDU 100, or visiting the multiple public pickleball courts in Columbia, including Woodlands Park, Trenholm Park and Southeast Park

Students should give pickleball a try and enjoy all that the sport has to offer, from effortless exercise to forming new relationships.