Pickleball popularity picks up
On a brisk Saturday morning in February, Daniel Island was bursting with outdoor activity. The fields at Governors Park were filled with little kids playing soccer, while pet owners were bundled up at the busy dog park. And at LTP Tennis Center, the courts were bustling with matches, especially at the pickleball courts where a group of at least 20 people gathered and engaged in lively matches on the four small courts.
As one of the fastest growing sports in the country, pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, and can be enjoyed by players of all ages.
Daniel Island resident Virgene Meadows described her fellow local pickleball enthusiasts as “a good group of people and friendly players.”
Meadows, who was waiting at a nearby picnic table for her turn to play last Saturday morning, said the players rotate in and have different partners, depending on the amount of people, so everyone has a chance to play.
LTP offers a pickleball membership that includes reserving courts, free use of pickleball equipment from the pro shop, participating in weekly matches and tournaments, and a variety of other benefits. Members can also take lessons and get to know other players during the monthly socials held at the clubhouse.
The first member social of 2020 will be held this Friday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m., and includes a chili cook-off and oyster roast in addition to a few rounds of pickleball or tennis doubles.
Scott Mannetta, who runs all the pickleball programming at LTP, said when he started a year ago, they had about 50 members, but today they have grown to more than 200 members. “The sport’s just exploding,” he said. “Everyone who plays absolutely loves it.”
He described it as “ping pong on super steroids,” and said pickleball is so popular because it’s fun, easy to learn, and multigenerational, with players of all different ages playing together.
“It can be as competitive as you want,” he added, “while at the same time pickleball is so welcoming and open,” as far as the social aspect of the game.
Mannetta said he had never heard of pickleball until he was introduced to it several years ago by a friend, and he hasn’t stopped playing since. “It’s taken my life on a completely different path,” he said. It even inspired him to create his own line of apparel, Picklestrong, with proceeds supporting cancer research through the Livestrong Foundation. His best-selling hat is red with the words “Pickleball: Making Tennis Courts Great Again” in white.
Although it has taken a while for the tennis world to fully embrace the sport, Mannetta said he sees a demand for more courts, and he hopes that the area will invest in a world-class pickleball facility. He said he holds round robins on Monday and Tuesday nights, and with only four courts, if 30 players show up, there’s not enough room for everyone.
Daniel Island even hosted the first officially sanctioned tournament by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) in the Charleston area last October, attracting 200 players from around the country.
“Charleston is the ideal place to be an amazing pickleball destination,” Mannetta said.