What can the Well-Being Industry Learn from Pickleball?


I recently found myself in a relatively uneventful meeting. That was until the end, when a partner on the other end mentioned that this weekend she planned to play pickleball.

That’s when I lit up. The mutual excitement was palpable. We spent the next 10 minutes talking about pickleball: how much fun it is, how fast it’s growing as a sport, and ultimately found ourselves questioning— is pickleball the perfect wellness activity?

Pickleball certainly has some unique characteristics that have allowed it to become the fastest growing sport in the country: social connection, community, teamwork, physical activity, and fun!

Social interaction. Pickleball is played in a relatively small area, about two thirds the size of a tennis court. The proximity of the players allows for a lot of chatter between points. Additionally, many courts set up what is called “open play,” where you can show up, by yourself, and play with other people who have decided to come. This concept of open play means that players are constantly meeting new people and can play often without the need to pre-arrange games.

Community. Combine open play with the pure enjoyment of playing the game and you have the recipe for a very strong community. Familiar faces become playing partners and then pickleball friends and then real friends. The community is so strong that the courts become a second home to many.

Teamwork. Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles format. However, the preference among most is doubles. The comradery of working with someone else to achieve a common goal cannot be overlooked as a notable feature of pickleball. At higher levels there is a lot of strategy that comes into play and working together as a team is the only way to win.

Physical activity. Pickleball is so fun that you might forget you’re getting exercise while playing. Hours will pass by, and you might be tired, but it’s nearly impossible to turn down an invitation for “one more game.”

Fun. As you can see, there are many reasons pickleball has gained so much popularity. However, one simple truth might be more responsible than the rest: it’s so darn fun! There’s something familiar about it as a racquet/paddle sport yet something very unique about it at the same time. It’s enjoyed by young and old alike and if you haven’t given it a try yet, get out there!

It’s unlikely that a worksite wellness program will go viral in the way that pickleball has. However, if we deconstruct the reasons why pickleball has gained so many fervent followers we can learn quite a bit. Employees don’t want to be pricked, prodded, and bribed. They want to have fun, be social, and be a part of a community.