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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Pickleball: The sport that’s paddle-smashing its way into Aggie hearts

Photo by TheVillagesFL/WikiCommons

Put down your textbooks for a minute because the world of sports has a fresh face, and it’s called pickleball — a sport that’s making quite a racket on our campus.

Originating in the 1960s, pickleball rapidly gained popularity at Texas A&M, blending elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Played on smaller courts with lightweight paddles and a perforated plastic ball, pickleball is not just a game, it’s an experience that has created a community here on campus since 2021.

Economics senior Will Cantor, the treasurer for the A&M Pickleball Club, said the organization represents a diverse mix of skill levels, ultimately creating a thriving community of Pickleball enthusiasts. 

“We used to have anywhere from 10 to 30 people at practice, and then the next semester, it got a little bigger — but this past summer, it just boomed,” Cantor said. “Our first few practices had over 100 players. I’ve seen exponential growth this semester, with a good mix of people that are learning, just casual, and now we even have a competitive team.”

Cantor said many of the club’s members are there to foster friendships. 

“It[’s] also is a really good social outlet,” Cantor said. “It is never taken really too seriously. People are really social and want to make friends also, with it being very easy to pick up.”

Accounting junior Justin Paez has been a part of the Pickleball Club since his freshman year and serves as an executive board member. The Penberthy courts at A&M offer a versatile playing environment where both casual and competitive players can enjoy the game, Paez said.

“You can go in any day, with any sort of way you want to play,” Paez said. “If you just want to go out with buddies and play for fun, or play competitively, the courts offer both.”

Paez said he believes  pickleball’s popularity has grown because professional athletes have embraced the sport. “You have to look at it with the professional landscape of it,” Paez said. “Major league pickleball has really grown, [and] with professional athletes like Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees buying into pickleball, it causes a lot of popularity.”

With the potential of making it to highly competitive leagues, Paez said pickleball is a sport that will continue to rise.

“I’ve done my own research, but I think within the next 10 years, it could be in the Olympics,” Paez said. “Japan and Europe are also big on pickleball now. They need around 70 countries to play with professionals in order to make it to the Olympics, which I think will happen sooner or later.”

Business administration junior Cole Wageman, an A&M Pickleball Club executive board member and one of its founding members,  said he believes the sport’s enduring growth is a testament to its accessibility.

“I definitely think it will grow because there is a low barrier to entry,” Wageman said. “There was only one place in San Antonio I used to play at, and now there are courts probably every 15 to 20 minutes.”

With the sports’ rising popularity and easy learning curve, everyone is welcome to come out to the Omar Smith Tennis courts, Paez said.

“Even if you don’t know how to play, come out, have a good time,” Paez said.”It is really fun.”

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