Is Pickleball a College Sport?

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College sports have been a part of American culture for decades. Most schools offer at least one big-time college sport, such as football or basketball. But what about pickleball? Pickleball is a game that has been around for decades. It’s not just for senior citizens anymore! Pickleball courts are popping up in more and more places, including college campuses. Schools like the University of South Carolina have pickleball courts on campus that students can use to play this fun game with their friends. For many schools, the question becomes “should we invest in a pickleball court?” or “what about scholarships?” We will answer these questions and more in our article about whether or not colleges should offer scholarships for pickleball players!

Why pickleball should be an intercollegiate sport

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S., which means that it should be included as a college sport. It is played by both collegiate athletes and amateurs alike. Plus, it’s an inexpensive sport to play (unlike football or basketball). While other sports have several scholarship opportunities for athletes, pickleball is not far behind. Pickleball has lower injury risks than most other sports and has a high potential for scholarship and prize money for those who are dedicated.

Schools such as Florida State University and the United States Naval Academy have intercollegiate teams for both men and women. They’re great options if you want to play at a competitive level but don’t necessarily want to join an established team during your freshman year of college. And remember: even though it’s unlikely right now, we can hope that more schools will follow suit with their own scholarship programs in the coming years!

We are currently exploring these opportunities with Auburn University, who just installed 8 new pickleball courts for their intermural league starting this Fall. Harper, an Auburn representative believes that, ” Providing courts on campus will expose a whole new generation of participants to the game. We believe that students will love this new opportunity.” The lack of exposure has led to pickleball not being recognized by all as an intercollegiate sport. However, the first intercollegiate pickleball tournament was held at Southern Utah University and popularity is growing exponentially among college students. Finally, pickleball can help develop life skills through discipline and teamwork as well as relieve stress for those during exams. 

Even though pickleball hasn’t caught on among all college athletic departments yet, the game is gaining popularity in clubs and rec centers across the country. So, will pickleball ever be an intercollegiate sport? The answer is most definitely, yes because pickleball has been recognized as an official “sport”, meaning college students could soon use their athletic abilities to leverage financial benefits.


Pros and Cons of adding Pickleball to the NCAA

There are many reasons why pickleball should be considered for NCAA inclusion. It’s inexpensive, easy to learn, and fun to play. On the other hand, there are downsides that must be taken into account when considering adding it as a college sport. One of them is that not every school has an available court on campus. There is also the possibility that competitive players might not want to attend a school without an official pickleball team. 

Many people think that this is a long shot. This is because of how pickleball started off as a simple pastime of retirees. The fact that it was not played by amateurs meant that there were no school teams for this sport, even though the NCAA had been around since 1906. In recent years, however, there have been more signs that point to pickleball becoming an intercollegiate sport. For example, there are colleges that have already made this an official varsity sport, like the University of Florida. Another reason is that more high schools are starting to offer pickleball as a sport.

With that in mind, there are still a lot of challenges to overcome for this to happen. This is not just with the fact that pickleball has been around as a recreational activity for so long. There are also issues regarding the revenue splits between men’s basketball and other sports at most institutions. While there are some institutions that support all their athletic programs equally, it is more common for the big money makers like football and basketball to get a bigger cut of the profits than some of the other sports do. Plus, while there might be certain schools where they lack resources and new facilities needed for esports , these same schools would probably need even more resources and new facilities for pickleball.

The future of pickleball in college sports

While there are some reasons to be hopeful that pickleball can become an intercollegiate sport, the consensus among experts is that it will not happen immediately. The activity has been around for more than half a century now, but its roots as a recreational activity mean that more people who play this game need to grow up playing this game before it can become popular enough at the college level. For now, most colleges and universities continue to sponsor varsity programs for this sport. 

Although there are scholarships available for students at some of these institutions, they still lag behind other sports like lacrosse or softball in terms of financial aid. With more high schools offering this as a club sport, there might come a day where more people will be exposed to it on a regular basis.  At that point, it might be more common to see colleges and universities offer this as a varsity sport. Even then, however, there will still be debates over how big of a cut non-revenue sports like pickleball should get when it comes to the revenue split. It is hard to say if these problems will ever go away.

How you can help get pickleball into college sports

If you want to see pickleball as an NCAA sport, there are some things that can be done. The first is to make others aware of the opportunity it presents for students who aren’t interested in traditional college sports. Another way would be to try and get your school or local community centers involved by offering free lessons or other support. It might take time, but eventually, people will start taking notice! 

6 thoughts on “Is Pickleball a College Sport?”

  1. Auburn University adding pickleball courts have been a great addition to students like me. Easy way to get out with friends and stay in shape.

      • Hello Dan,
        I write the Pickleball article for our local paper in my community (Keowee Key, SC). I enjoyed your article. Do you know of any other intercollegiate competitions besides the Southern Utah University/Dixie State competition in 2017? (Surely there have been more in the 5 years since that meet.) Which universities have Pickleball as a varsity sport? Specifically, do you know of any ACC or SEC Pickleball tournaments?

    • Hello! I have 3 kids all experienced pickleball players who would love to play in college. Does NC state have an official team??


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