Much like the game itself, the world of professional pickleball moves at a rapid pace, always evolving and growing bigger and better each year. Because of this, there’s always something new going on in pickleball—new trends, developments, businesses, players, and opportunities are constantly being introduced.
This does mean, though, that it can be difficult to keep up with the current news. So, here’s everything to know about the latest developments in professional pickleball.
Rule Changes for 2023
Every year, pickleball’s official rulebook is open for adjustments. Ever since 2021’s controversial changes, USA Pickleball members have had the opportunity to propose amendments, which has worked to promote inclusion and cooperation in the sport.
The window for members to propose changes closed June 30, so the official revision process has already started. The USAPA is scheduled to have the 2023 Rulebook available for review by Dec. 1 so that any edits can be finalized by Jan. 1 of next year. Players will be allowed to comment on the proposed revisions before any official decisions are made.
As the USAPA’s rulebook is binding in most tournaments, professional or amateur, it’s worth staying up-to-date on any changes that could take place.
This year’s proposed edits include: changing the scoring process to rally scoring only, allowing players to step in the non-volley zone after making contact with the ball, and even getting rid of the non-volley zone completely (which is surprising and would cause quite the stir if approved.)
Trending Strategies – moving to the offensive
Pickleball has become much more competitive than the casual lawn game it was at its creation, so it’s only natural that new strategies would be increasingly focused on winning points swiftly and efficiently. While the classic slow shots that helped make pickleball unique from other racquet sports—like dinks, drops, and the standard underhanded serve—are still an integral component of rallies, players have begun to develop styles of play that focus on powerful winning shots.
The most popular ways today’s pickleball players have moved to the offensive are by incorporating spin into their skillset and going for the win much earlier in a rally than before.
When it comes to playing offensively, it has become natural for pickleball players to immediately move to the non-volley line, which is where most of the winning shots are hit. Volleys are quicker by nature, and a decent reaction time is necessary to win at the non-volley line—getting off a shot that an opponent can’t react to, then, is a great way to win a point. It follows that more players are now willing to skip the polite dinks that pickleball used to be known for and get straight to the action.
While usually seen at the non-volley line, winning shots can come from anywhere on the court, especially as pickleball players have begun incorporating spin into their backcourt shots and even their serves.
“Spin” is, simply put, a method of hitting the ball with a practiced motion that causes it to drop unexpectedly or kick in a different direction upon bouncing—balls with spin are thus much trickier to return. Using it is by no means a new strategy in racquet sports (it’s particularly popular in tennis), but before pro competitions there wasn’t a huge need to consistently hit such offensive shots in pickleball. Now, though, learning how to accurately and reliably hit the ball with spin could easily give a player the edge over their opponent.
Pickleball as a Growing Industry
It’s safe to say the sport has officially developed beyond community courts, backyard set-ups, and the sanctioned competitive tours—it’s become fashionably commercial.
With the rising popularity of venues such as the quickly expanding Chicken N Pickle franchise, more and more businesses and start-ups are looking to take advantage of just how trendy pickleball has become. These facilities sell pickleball gear alongside food and drinks, and alternate entertainment is available steps away from brand new courts.
While they are in the business of entertaining their patrons, these venues have played a huge part in keeping pickleball trendy—this is undeniable. While some might frown at the idea of turning a beloved sport into such a lucrative business, people of all ages are now being introduced to pickleball when before they might not have had the opportunity (or the desire!) to pick up a paddle.
When the casual, for-fun side of pickleball flourishes, so does the professional side of things—interest in the sport grows, and so tournaments both locally and nationally can follow suit. A sport that nobody particularly cares about is a dying one, and the development of trendy pickleball venues is a great way to introduce younger generations to the game and keep it alive.
Amateur Tournament Series Looking to Go International
While not necessarily a new development, the addition of an amateur tournament series by the World Pickleball Tour (WPT) marks significant progress in pickleball’s inclusive nature. Several pro tours have been introduced over the past few years, but the WPT is the first to give even amateur players the chance to compete at such a high level—the tour consisted of 26 tournaments all over the country with upwards of 300 players battling it out at each one.
WPT has announced that it is looking to expand the tour internationally in 2023, which would open the door for amateur players to have even more opportunity to up their game and show off their skill. Further information will be released as the organization finalizes plans and a schedule, so anyone interested in taking part should keep an eye out for announcements.
But what does this mean for professional pickleball? As casual players are able to gain experience in tournaments such as WPT’s, it’s safe to assume that more and more will transition to the professional side of pickleball—the game is fiercely addictive, after all, and many who pick up a paddle have no desire to put it back down. Healthy competition is always a benefit to an up-and-coming sport, and tours such as this one work to encourage and develop that competition. Who knows? Maybe some of the newest stars in pro pickleball will come out of an amateur tour.