Pickleball is all the rage on college campuses

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 12:16 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - It’s common knowledge to everyone now that pickleball is all the rage.

Over at Baylor, Paul Underwood recently started a pickleball club. In October, they played their first tournament with Texas and Mary Hardin-Baylor. Thought, the “club” is not officially recognized as a club sport.

That’s one thing that we’re kind of fighting for is that official club designation,” said Underwood. “I think we’re going to get that in the fall, but I just got involved with the social club, and I would like to see a competitive team generated from that.”

For Baylor’s team to become a club sport on campus, the pickleballers need a few things. They must play a competitive schedule for a certain period of time. The club also needs to have an established team, but they don’t lack the latter.

The Bears have 12 men and four women, including graduate student Annie Wallace. Even though the females are outnumbered, Wallace says the team feels like a big family.

“They’re all just so supportive,” said Wallace. “Some of that guy-girl play, like are they targeting the girl? No, they’re here to have fun and experience what we’re experiencing/ Plus, Paul mentioned us being the trail blazers, and I agree with that. We’re kind of just laying the foundation of what pickleball can be at the collegiate level for sure.

At the collegiate level is where the sport has seen the most growth. Around 130 colleges across the country have competitive pickleball clubs. Ben Van Hout, who works for the pickleball rating company, DUPR, says that amount is increasing at a rapid rate.

“The cool thing about collegiate pickleball is that it’s not just the big schools that are really starting awesome programs,” said Van Hout. “From 17 schools to 130 in a year is pretty tremendous. I probably see it doubling or tripling next year.”

Texas pickleball officer Alec Alden thinks the sport will soon be at almost all Division I schools, and eventually at the Summer Games.

“There’s been a ton of investment in the pickleball landscape,” said Alden. “I don’t know any other details, but I would not be surprised if pickleball is a D1 sport in one to two years, and maybe even an Olympic sport.”

Though, no matter how quickly that all unfolds, one thing’s for sure is that pickleball isn’t going anywhere.

“I’m a tournament player, and I play a lot of tournaments, and I see college kids playing this game all over,” said Underwood. “It’s not just your grandma’s game anymore.”