Delaney Engel

The first pickleball tournament in the mid-Atlantic region, n2grate D.C., was held in College Park at the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) from October 20th to October 23. Pickleball, a sport played on a badminton court with ping-pong paddles and a perforated ping-pong ball, has grown in popularity in various age groups and geographical locations in recent years.

Pickleball courts have been installed throughout the area, including these at Driskell Park in Hyattsville
Photo Credit: Jessica Burshtynskyy

The competition at the tournament was intense as professional men’s, women’s, and senior singles and doubles competed for the winning titles. The top men’s pickleball player in the world, Ben Johns, a graduate of the University of Maryland-College Park who lives in Montgomery County, played in the tournament. Alongside Johns, Callie Smith, the top ranked player in women’s doubles, and Anna Leigh Walters, the top women’s singles player, also played in the tournament. 

The tournament was aired on CBS, CBS Sports, Tennis Channel and PPA TV and hosted approximately 800 athletes, with an allotment of $133,000 in prize money.

While pickleball has recently become trendy, the sport is nearly 60 years old. Pickleball was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell when they improvised a tennis-like game and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball on an old badminton court, according to USA Pickleball. The game’s intent was to be inclusive of all ages and levels of physical ability. By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states, and it continues to grow at a rapid pace. 

According to the USA Pickleball’s website

 “USA Pickleball Membership reached the 50,000 milestone and ended the year with just over 53,000 members, a 43% increase from the previous year and the largest single growth year to date for the organization.”

Sydney Levine, a senior business student at the University of Maryland-College Park and regular pickleball player explained how she loves the versatility of the sport and how it is popular among many age groups, providing an entertaining way to keep active for all. 

“I love playing pickleball because it reminds me of tennis, but because I have not played [tennis] in a while, pickleball is easier to pick back up and is a fun activity with friends and family of all levels and ages…I do not play tennis as often anymore because pickleball is more fun,”  Levine said.