All eyes were on Anna Leigh Waters, 15, and Ben Johns, 23, a mixed doubles team and perhaps the two brightest stars in the rapidly expanding pickleball universe.
Waters, who turned pro at 12, is no longer getting asked by friends why she gave up soccer and why she‚Äôs on the road so much. She has been featured on ‚ÄúSportsCenter‚ÄĚ and has her own logo, a signature paddle and a sponsorship deal with Fila. She‚Äôs growing right along with the sport.
‚ÄúI used to hear, like, ‚ÄėHa-ha, that‚Äôs just an old-person sport,‚ÄĚ the 15-year-old said with a laugh. ‚ÄúBut now they see me on TV and stuff. Or they see that I‚Äôm playing with celebrities that they know. And I‚Äôm like: ‚ÄėI told you. Pickleball is a legit thing.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Turned "pro" at 12-years old. If only I had known. But there's still this.
According to SFIA‚Äôs most recent numbers, the single largest age demographic is still 65-plus (849,000 players last year), though younger players aren‚Äôt far behind (787,000 ages 25-34; 600,000 in 18-24; and 610,000 in 35-44). Players tend to be white, college-educated and earn at least $100,000 annually.
"Human existence is based upon two pillars: Compassion and knowledge. Compassion without knowledge is ineffective; Knowledge without compassion is inhuman." Victor Weisskopf.