How Kids Can Improve Mental Toughness by Playing Pickleball
Pickleball’s popularity is growing quickly, with many schools offering it for the first time.
That’s the word from Mike Nielsen, the AAU’s new pickleball chief, and In Pickleball president Richard Porter. In fact, the two pickleball enthusiasts are working to ensure the sport is available to as many youth as possible.
Already, high school coaches are lobbying to institutionalize pickleball as a high school sport and schools across the country are converting tennis courts to pickleball courts. In fact, tennis’s popularity is waning, while pickleball is being picked up by people of all generations, according to Porter and Nielsen.
Pickleball is especially good for kids who view themselves as not being very athletic, Porter said during an Ultimate Sports Parent podcast interview. That’s because it’s easy to learn and the culture focuses on inclusivity, having fun, making friends and being kind. What’s more, it’s common for youth to play with parents and grandparents.
The sport is accessible to low-income youth who may not have other sports opportunities because other sports can be expensive. All that’s needed are paddles, a net and wiffle balls, and the nets can be set up on tennis courts, in driveways or on basketball courts.
All of these pickleball benefits can boost players’ confidence and self esteem, Porter says.
“The game is easier for a beginner than tennis or golf. Even if you’ve never had a racket or paddle in hand, within 20 minutes you can be decent enough so people won’t mind playing with you,” says Porter. “At the core of it, it’s really fun.”
Pickleball’s ability to create cross-generational teams offers opportunities for parents and kids to play together–and bond.
For example, the mother-daughter team of Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters have been Pickleball’s leading doubles pair. They have taken home wins in the Florida Grand Slam, the Tournament of Champions and USA Pickleball Nationals.
How do typical non-athletes react to playing pickleball?
“I see joy on their faces. Their eyes light up because they are good at it. Kids feel welcome to the community. All they need is a good pair of sneakers; they don’t need a fancy uniform, they have the paddle and they’re good to go. It’s a big opportunity to boost confidence and make new friends,” says Porter.
Parents can help establish teams at their kids’ schools or in their neighborhoods. For help, they can visit https://aaupickleball.org/.