Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pickleball starts making inroads with younger players

Published August 24, 2016 -

Kyle Yates is proving that pickleball isn’t just for the 50-plus crowd.

Yates, 21, a Fort Myers native, is ranked No. 1 overall in the world and No. 2 in singles. He recently returned from playing in four tournaments in Washington and Oregon. He won gold in eight of nine events. At the U.S. Open in Naples last spring, he won gold in the men’s pro and 19-plus doubles divisions while earning the silver in men’s pro singles.

Pickleball has been around since 1965 but didn’t make much of an impression until 2008 when the game hit the senior market. Studies show 68 percent of the players are 60 and over.

About 2.5 million are playing the sport now in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Netherlands, India, England, Australia, China and Spain.

In the next two years, participation is expected to triple, according to the USA Pickleball Association.

Yates said a pro tour may start as early as 2017 and that USAPA has been working on a variety of programs to get youths ages 11-17 involved.

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