Awareness of pickleball has continued to grow in the United States, increasing by 33% since May of last year. Today, a total of 17% of adult respondents from a CivicScience poll stated they have tried pickleball.

But what appeared to be a COVID-related boom in popularity seems to now be faltering as people experience the sport and decide if it is for them or not. Even among those who are familiar with pickleball, the percentage who say they have played and enjoyed pickleball has decreased by four percentage points. Roughly the same number of Americans as last year intend to try their hand at pickleball.

Interest and overall awareness is still highly concentrated among younger generations (those under 35 years old, particularly Gen Z adults). Intent to play pickleball saw a minor increase among young Millennials, but playing the game with enjoyment has decreased significantly (from 24% to 16%) for this group. The percentage of Millennials who said they have played pickleball but did not like it grew from 12% to 16%. Among older groups, playing with enjoyment and overall intent to play have both decreased since last year’s report.

Interest in Watching Pickleball as a Sport

At this point in time, pickleball’s popularity has slightly more to do with watching the sport than playing it. Close to one-quarter (23%) of U.S. adults familiar with pickleball say they are interested in watching it. The people who are interested in watching the sport outnumber the percentage of people who have played it this year. At the same time, those interested in watching it are also extremely likely to have already played pickleball or plan to play it soon.

A Sport for People Not Into Sports

Even if the sport hasn’t stuck as a hobby or pastime for everyone who has tried it, playing pickleball roped in a handful of unlikely candidates: non-sports fans. The approachable nature of pickleball attracted a massive number of people who claim to be not into sports. More than one-quarter (26%) of these disinterested Americans have played pickleball and liked it at a much greater rate than moderate and extreme sports fans. For example, only 9% of people who are passionate sports fans – both playing and watching – have actually tried playing pickleball.

However, watching pickleball is for serious sports fans: 29% show interest in watching the sport. Interest in watching the sport dwindles as survey respondents become less interested in sports. For example, just 6% of non-sports fans are interested in watching pickleball.

When it comes to how pickleball fans are most likely to watch live matches, YouTube takes the top spot (30%) followed by major TV networks that broadcast the sport (21%). Less popular ways respondents plan to watch include Amazon Prime (17%) and FanDuel TV (8%). One-quarter say they will use ‘other’ ways to watch the sport, which could include watching user videos on TikTok.

The pickleball upswing is still in motion but could start to wind down as more novice players dabble in the sport. Young people are still leading the pickleball surge with force, and perhaps warmer weather can sustain enjoyment across age groups. At the same time, interest in watching pickleball shows promise.

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