Photos courtesy of Phoenix Children’s Foundation
The fast-paced world of pickleball is set to converge at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa for the Fourth Annual PCH 50 Pickleball Championships. A sport that has captured the hearts of millions across the nation, pickleball is ready to showcase its unique blend of fun, competition, and community spirit in this much-anticipated event.
Scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the tournament will feature players across Professional, Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginner divisions, vying for over $15,000 in prize money. This group play format, followed by a double-elimination tournament, promises a full day of high-energy and competitive pickleball action.
The PCH 50 Pickleball Championships is not just about fierce competition; it’s a response to the sport’s growing popularity and its ability to bring communities together for a cause. The event is organized by PCH 50, a group of 50 community leaders dedicated to supporting the Phoenix Children’s Hope Fund. Through signature fundraising events like the PCH 50 Pickleball Championships and Off the Record, PCH 50 plays a pivotal role in generating vital funding for the hospital’s urgent needs.
Pickleball, a sport that blends elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, has come a long way since its inception in 1965 as a children’s game in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Initially devised as a backyard pastime, this unassuming sport has transformed into a national phenomenon, capturing the hearts of millions across the United States. In recognition of its origins and popularity, Washington state proudly named pickleball as its official state sport in 2022.
The journey of pickleball from a regional activity in the Pacific Northwest to a nationwide craze is nothing short of remarkable. Between 1965 and 2020, it steadily gained traction in its birthplace region before bursting onto the national scene. Not surprisingly, the Sports and Fitness Industry Association has recognized pickleball as the fastest-growing sport in the United States over the past three years. This growth is evidenced by its player base, which soared to an estimated 4.8 million by 2023.
The sport’s popularity can be attributed to several key factors. Its short learning curve makes it accessible to beginners, while its appeal spans various ages and fitness levels. Moreover, the low startup costs associated with pickleball make it an attractive option for many. This accessibility has led to a proliferation of pickleball tournaments across the nation, including prestigious events like the U.S. National Championships and the U.S. Open Tournament. The sport also boasts two professional tours and a professional league, highlighting its ascent in the competitive sports arena.
The origin of the name “pickleball” itself has an interesting backstory. According to Joan Pritchard, the wife of co-inventor Joel Pritchard, the game was named after the pickle boat in crew, a term used for a boat with leftover rowers from other boats. However, there’s a popular misconception that the sport was named after the Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles. In reality, the dog was named after the game. This mix-up originated when a reporter in the early 1970s, aiming for a more relatable story angle, erroneously attributed the game’s name to the family pet.
Today, pickleball stands as a symbol of inclusivity and community spirit. Its simplicity and the joy it brings to players have made it a staple in community centers, schools, and local parks. The sport’s growth is not just reflected in its increasing player base but also in the community and camaraderie it fosters. From casual players enjoying a game in their local park to competitive athletes participating in national championships, pickleball has created a unifying thread across diverse demographics.
The game is played on a court similar to a doubles badminton court, with a net similar to tennis but slightly lower. Players use paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over the net. The rules are simple: the ball must be served underhand, and points can only be scored by the serving side. The game’s uniqueness is highlighted by the ‘no-volley zone’, preventing players from executing smashes from near the net.
Over the past three years, the PCH 50 Pickleball Championships have gained momentum, attracting a growing number of participants and spectators. While the exact figures from previous tournaments are not readily available, it is evident that each year the event has successfully raised significant funds for Phoenix Children’s, a testament to the power of sports in supporting noble causes.
The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is located at 5350 E. Marriott Dr. Interested sponsors, teams, and spectators are encouraged to contact Andrew Cheney at [email protected] or 602-954-3769 and Allie Cebry at [email protected] or 602-933-2621. For more information, visit phoenixchildrensfoundation.org/giving-groups/pch50/pickleball.