Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in recent years. The sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis and is played with a paddle and plastic ball on a badminton-sized court. Originally invented in 1965, pickleball has seen exponential growth in the last decade. This increase in popularity has led to the creation of several major pickleball associations worldwide. But how many pickleball associations are there exactly? Let’s take a closer look at some of the key organizations supporting the growth of pickleball globally.
- What Governing Body Oversees Pickleball Internationally?
- How Did the National Association for Pickleball in the U.S. Get Started?
- When Was the First Professional Pickleball Organization Formed?
- How Has Another Professional Association Helped Propelled Pro Pickleball Forward?
- When Did the First Major Pickleball League Launch?
- What Role Do Regional and Local Associations Play?
- How Many Countries Have National Associations for Pickleball?
- Why Are New Pickleball Associations Continuing to Form?
- How Do These Associations Collectively Contribute to Pickleball's Growth?
What Governing Body Oversees Pickleball Internationally?
The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) is recognized as the international federation and world governing body for the sport of pickleball by the Global Association of International Sports Federations. Established in 2010 by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), now known as USA Pickleball (USAP), the IFP aims to promote the growth and visibility of pickleball worldwide.
The IFP has 47 member countries across 5 continents. It oversees international rankings, sanctions global tournaments, and creates standardized rules and guidelines. The IFP also helps develop pickleball in new nations by providing grants and resources. As pickleball’s popularity spreads globally, the IFP plays a crucial role in managing its growth.
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How Did the National Association for Pickleball in the U.S. Get Started?
USA Pickleball (USAP) is the national governing body for pickleball in the United States. Originally founded in 1984 as the USAPA, the organization was established to promote pickleball and develop rules and safety guidelines.
Headquartered in Surprise, Arizona, USAP now has over 50,000 individual and organization members. It offers player memberships, sanctions tournaments, publishes official pickleball rules, and offers rankings, resources, and training for players and referees.
USAP also partners with the IFP to promote pickleball growth. Thanks to USAP’s advocacy and grassroots efforts, pickleball has exploded across the U.S., with over 4.8 million players by 2021. As the sport’s popularity climbs, USAP plays a key role in governance and standardization.
When Was the First Professional Pickleball Organization Formed?
With pickleball’s rising participation and popularity, professional pickleball began taking shape in the 2010s. The first organization for pro players and events emerged in 2017 – the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP).
Based in Draper, Utah, APP was founded by a group of top pickleball players who wanted to elevate the competition level of the sport. APP sanctions professional tournaments globally, maintains pro player rankings, and offers membership benefits.
Some APP initiatives include establishing refereeing and scoring standards, growing prize money and sponsorship, and improving media coverage. Thanks to APP’s efforts, pro pickleball is becoming more prestigious and competitive. Top players can now make a living playing pickleball full-time.
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How Has Another Professional Association Helped Propelled Pro Pickleball Forward?
In 2018, another professional pickleball organization was formed – the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA). Based in Phoenix, Arizona, the PPA also hosts pro tournaments and provides resources to benefit players, fans, and sponsors.
Some key PPA contributions include partnering with ESPN to air pro events, advocating for standardized court lines and equipment, developing coaching certifications, and working to get pickleball into major athletic competitions like the Olympics.
With two competing pro organizations in APP and PPA, the professionalization of pickleball has accelerated. Both associations have helped increase prize money, sponsorships, player earnings, media coverage, and competitiveness. Top pros now have more opportunities to build their brands and make pickleball a full-time career.
When Did the First Major Pickleball League Launch?
In 2020, Major League Pickleball (MLP) became the first professional team league for pickleball in the U.S. MLP was co-founded by entrepreneur Steve Kuhn and pickleball pro Ken Herrmann.
MLP launched with 12 teams and over 120 players. Teams draft top pro players to compete in a league format similar to tennis. MLP has landed major corporate sponsorships from companies like Hyundai and has events televised on CBS Sports.
With team-based rivalries, big sponsors, and extensive media reach, MLP is aiming to make pickleball a major pro team sport like basketball, baseball, or football. The league represents a milestone in pickleball’s journey towards mainstream recognition and viewership.
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What Role Do Regional and Local Associations Play?
In addition to national and international associations, regional and local pickleball organizations help grow the sport and support players. For example, the Florida Pickleball Association, the Midwest Pickleball Association, and the European Pickleball Federation promote pickleball in their respective regions.
At the community level, local pickleball clubs advocate for new courts, organize lessons and events for beginners, and give players an opportunity to improve together. These hyperlocal groups are key for introducing new people to pickleball and building local enthusiasm.
Grassroots advocacy from regional and local groups complements the governance and standardization from major associations. All these organizations collectively enable pickleball’s growth and longevity.
How Many Countries Have National Associations for Pickleball?
As of 2023, there are official national pickleball associations and federations in over 25 countries worldwide. Some associations represent multiple nations within a region, like Pickleball Europe which covers dozens of countries.
Some of the countries with the longest-running national pickleball bodies include Canada (formed in 1993), India (2004), United Kingdom (2010), Germany (2012), and Australia (2013). As pickleball expands globally, more and more nations are establishing formal associations and federations to govern the sport locally.
In addition to national bodies, many countries have numerous regional and local associations. The rapid spread of pickleball is evident from the proliferation of governing organizations at every geographic level.
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Why Are New Pickleball Associations Continuing to Form?
New pickleball associations keep emerging as the sport infiltrates more communities. In the U.S., pickleball has exploded from around 700 venues in 2010 to over 8,500 venues in 2022.
With facilities and players multiplying yearly, niche associations arise to meet unique needs. For example, there are now associations for collegiate pickleball, wheelchair pickleball, youth pickleball, and more. Specialized groups allow tailored governance, training, events, and advancement for their demographics.
Globally, over 120 countries have some level of pickleball play. As participation grows abroad, associations are created to regulate, promote, and organize local infrastructure. The momentum of pickleball’s global diffusion ensures new associations will continue materializing.
How Do These Associations Collectively Contribute to Pickleball’s Growth?
The diverse array of international, national, regional, and local pickleball associations all play important roles in growing the sport holistically.
The IFP provides global standardization and international development. National governing bodies like USAP tailor policies and resources for their countries. Groups like APP and PPA elevate professional play. Grassroots local clubs generate community enthusiasm.
These associations collectively bolster pickleball by:
- Establishing rules and policies
- Sanctioning tournaments
- Maintaining player rankings
- Creating development programs
- Advocating for facilities
- Training players and referees
- Attracting sponsors and media
- Making the sport more competitive
- Generating participation and awareness
The coordinated efforts across associations at all levels create a supportive ecosystem that enables pickleball to flourish.
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Pickleball has experienced massive expansion from just a few hundred players in 1965 to millions worldwide today. This meteoric rise has fueled the creation of numerous associations to govern and cultivate the sport locally to globally. Major organizations like the IFP, USAP, APP, and PPA provide structure for competitive and recreational pickleball. Meanwhile, hyperlocal clubs introduce new players and advocate for community growth. The collective contributions across associations drive pickleball’s increasing popularity and credibility as it cements itself as one of the world’s fastest growing sports.