A big reason that pickleball has exploded over the last couple of years is that it's a challenging and fun game that people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy. Perhaps no other sport in the world can put a sixty-year-old and a twenty-year-old on the same court and make the match competitive. Yet, that happens daily at pickleball clubs and courts around the world. It's equally unique and extraordinary. As more people discover this about pickleball, the more the sport will grow and evolve. But what do you do if you're struggling to find a pickleball community near you that you can get out and play with? In this blog post, we will discuss how you can get involved in building your own pickleball community. We'll cover topics such as identifying potential members, creating opportunities to play, utilizing social media, partnering with local organizations, encouraging participation and engagement among members, and sustaining growth over time. So if you're ready to start connecting with fellow picklers in your area or spreading your love of this fantastic sport, read on!
Why Community Building is Essential
It's challenging to go at anything alone. But getting even a few people on your side to help you build something awesome can make it much easier and enjoyable. A strong community behind you can be essential for growing and sustaining pickleball clubs, tournaments, and more. A community of like-minded picklers can give you momentum and energy. They can pick up the slack when you need them to. And they can provide some leverage if you want to gain access to other clubs and potential sponsors or finally turn that tennis court that no one uses into an active pickleball court. Having access to a bunch of players, especially if they are at different skill levels, also helps you keep the games going and the competition strong. Community members can lean on each other, help weed out nonsense, and provide you with the support and motivation needed to keep things running smoothly. But where and how do you find these potential community members? Let's explore that next.
Finding Potential Members
As far as we know, there isn't a dating app for pickleball players...yet. However, there are ways to find potential members for your pickleball community.
Many pickleball clubs and organizations also have Facebook Groups where members can go and connect. Consider starting your own. They are free to make, and the existing groups are searchable online. Even if you don't live in a particular area or aren't a member of a pickleball organization, you can likely add yourself or ask to be added to existing Facebook Groups. This can help you see how to operate one and seek advice from other group leaders who have already started the community-building process. Join a Facebook Group and look around at the different posts or even reach out directly to the group leader for their wisdom. Then start your own Group and begin inviting people you know to join. As the group grows, you can plan your games or events and share advice with one another.
Online Forums & Chats
The Kitchen has a facebook group forum with 70,000+ members. Drop in and see what kind of information they share. Make a post inviting people who might live in your area to join your Facebook group or come out and play a game or event.
Local YMCAs or Other Community-Based Centers
If reaching out online scares you a bit, or you want more routes to find players, consider visiting a local YMCA or another community center. Ask the front desk if they have any pickleball clubs or players hanging around. They may even be looking for someone like you to help them start their own pickleball club or community.
Tennis & Golf Clubs
Pickleball has loads of former and current tennis players in it. If your local tennis club hasn't started offering pickleball yet, call them and see what you can do to help them make the transition. Golf clubs might also be a good source. Basically, any club that has members will ALWAYS want more members. If you can help them add to their numbers, they'll likely be very interested in what you have to say or your ideas.
Signs & Posters
Old-school signs and posters can go a long way as well! Put some up at local tennis or pickleball courts, community centers, libraries, and coffee shops–of course, ask permission first, but most will likely be happy to help you find your pickleball community members.
Tell everyone. You never know who might be interested in playing pickleball. Maybe they saw a recent feature on a morning talk show or keep hearing about it, yet they haven't found anyone to play with.
Creating Opportunities to Play
What good is a pickleball club if you don't actually play pickleball? As the community leader, finding and creating opportunities for your group to play will become your job. This means finding courts, making schedules, and maybe even getting equipment to lug around. Hopefully, that doesn't scare you! Once you get the group up and running, you could always find someone willing to help you or even do those things for you. Similar to finding players, you'll want to visit local tennis clubs, public park offices, or anywhere spaces can be found and customized for pickleball. See what you can do to develop a "home court" for your pickleball community. If it requires an investment, consider pooling resources or asking the group to pitch in so that the honus isn't just on you. Getting your group some portable nets, balls, and pickleball paddles can help you get more matches in and invite new people who might not have any equipment themselves. If there is a local pickleball club, ask the owner(s) about group rates for you and your community. If you're promising to bring in a bunch of people, many clubs are willing to bend the rules slightly or charge you less for memberships.
Encouraging Participation and Engagement
Sometimes being a group leader requires being a cheerleader and positivity coach. If you've been part of a group, you know that interest can grow stale or even die down entirely over time. It's up to you to keep the momentum going and encourage participation and engagement. This might mean consistently bringing in new members or setting up interesting tournaments or events. Don't be afraid to step outside the box and do something different than what clubs around you are doing. This is another excellent reason to join other Facebook Groups and visit pickleball club websites. Doing so can give you some great ideas and help you develop new ones. Besides playing pickleball together, consider attending events to watch the pros play. If you can't travel together, watch matches online together.
Sustaining Growth Over Time
How big can your group become? That's entirely up to you. The amount of work you're willing to put in will determine your growth over time. The keys to sustaining this growth are how your group polices itself, the members involved and how they treat each other, and whether or not there's ample opportunity to do the one thing your group came together for; play pickleball.
Building a thriving pickleball community requires dedication, hard work, and creative ideas. As the group leader, it is your responsibility to find members, create opportunities for them to play together, and promote growth and engagement within the group. Additionally, partnering with local organizations can help you access more courts or equipment at discounted rates. With these tips, we hope you’ll be able to build a fantastic pickleball community that has some fun and stays together for a long time.