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Mike Polk Jr. tries his hand at America's fastest-growing sport: Pickleball

Why is Pickleball's popularity presently permeating the population so pervasively? Mike decided to check it out for himself.

AKRON, Ohio — I was recently thinking about how it had been too long since I'd publicly humiliated myself by attempting to participate in a modern trend, so I guess it's time to talk about Pickleball

What is Pickleball? Why is it a thing right now, and why can't there ever be even ONE thing that I try for the first time and I'm somehow good at right away?! Just once! 

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before you get to watch me be bad at Pickleball, you have to learn what this trendy pastime is all about, and where better to go than Akron's own Towpath Tennis Center? Assistant manager Natalie Soto who told me that while the game resembles some other paddle sports, it has it's own unique flavor.

"It's a great mix of ping-ping, badminton, and tennis, I would say," she said, adding that players use a shorter paddle, hit a wiffle-like ball, and play on a smaller court.

It seems Pickleball is becoming a legitimate sport. There are now professional Pickleball tournaments, intense-looking commercial ads for the hottest Pickleball gear, and even a Pickleball Hall of Fame in Austin, Texas.

While Pickleball has been around since 1965, this enormous surge in popularity is quite new. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there's been a 40% increase in Pickleball participation in the U.S. since 2019.

But why now? Why is Pickleball's popularity presently permeating the population so pervasively? Soto says it's just a great sport that people of all ages can enjoy.

"Anyone from the ages of 90 years could play it down to the age of 6 years," she explained. "It's just a very inclusive sport, and it's just a sport that the whole family could play together."

Plus, health benefits abound! It's a great cardio workout with a social benefit to boot.

After being thoroughly briefed on the rules and history of Pickleball, it was now time to experience the magic for myself. So, how did it go?

Well, as with most new athletic endeavors, I found the experience to be both rewarding and humbling. And in retrospect, wearing jeans was a poor choice.

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