The Rebound Kentucky: Pickleball explodes in popularity across the Bluegrass

Posted at 1:18 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 19:33:32-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — If you’ve never heard of pickleball, now might be the time to pick up a paddle. The Kentucky Pickleball Association says the sport is more popular than ever since the start of the pandemic, and it’s helping the Bluegrass rebound this summer.

“I think COVID did a lot for pickleball,” said Dan Ewing, who organizes the Bluegrass State Games in July. “It’s an outdoor sport, naturally socially distanced, we’re not right up next to each other.”

On any given day, dozens of players now take over the 12 courts at Kirklevington Park.

“Just a few years ago it was an obscure, ‘What the heck is that?’ kind of sport,” Ewing said. “And now we’ve got hundreds of people playing here in Lexington.”

Ewing has played the sport for seven years; he says he’s never seen the sport like this.

Registration for the Bluegrass State Games has more than double since 2019, as new players picked up their paddles and can’t put them down. Part of the appeal is the social aspect of the sport. Everyone is friendly and encouraging, even during the fast-paced games.

That was a perk during the last year and a half when social distancing kept us physically apart.

“To be honest, I love it,” said LaTayna Greene, who started playing two years ago. “It’s a good way to stay active. I do the treadmill, but pickleball, the camaraderie. I just come every day. I love pickleball.”

Another great reason to pick up the sport is the minimal equipment needed to get started. And if you’re interested in trying out the sport, you don’t have to run out and buy equipment right away (but you can buy a fairly inexpensive set at most sporting goods stores.) Players say simply show up to Kirklevington Park, and someone will let you borrow a loaner. It’s more proof pickleball might be the friendliest sport around.

“This is a slice of America,” said Ewing. “Different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, and we all get along, and we all just enjoy pickleball.”

You can connect with the Kentucky Pickleball Association on Facebook.

Here’s more information on how to play.