75° San Marcos
The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

“Everybody became cross-connected”: the growth of pickleball in San Marcos

San+Marcos+Pickleball+Club+members+host+an+Open+Play+session%2C+Tuesday%2C+June+6%2C+2023%2C+at+Rio+Vista+Tennis+Courts+in+San+Marcos%2C+Texas.%26%23160%3B

San Marcos Pickleball Club members host an Open Play session, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at Rio Vista Tennis Courts in San Marcos, Texas. 

As summer approaches, some San Marcos residents may be looking forward to playing more pickleball, a growing sport in the community.
Pickleball started in 1965 by three fathers who wanted their families to have fun during the summertime. A combination of ping pong, tennis and badminton, pickle ball is played with a flat paddle similar to an oversized ping-pong paddle and a plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball but slightly larger than a tennis ball. The gameplay most resembles tennis, but points can only be earned for the serving team.
Pickleball is considered the fastest-growing sport in the United States, with an average growth rate of 158.6% in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also one of the largest sports in the country by participation, with 36.5 million people playing at least once in 2022, sitting just below running and biking.
“We knew it was an exciting, emerging sport,” Brandon Mackie, Pickleheads cofounder, said. “We’d love it [to play it ourselves], but we just could not have predicted how large it would have grown so quickly. And that’s true of the sport in general; it’s true of our own site and the chart that we see on the site.”
According to Pickleheads, an organization that’s been keeping track of pickleball’s growth in the United States and Canada, there are two registered pickleball courts in San Marcos; the San Marcos Activity Center, which requires a daily-use rate to play, and Rio Vista Park, a public court. They are used for multipurpose activities tracked by the Athletics Division of the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department.
Pickleball activities started in October 2014 as another event for older people, hosted twice a week at the San Marcos Activity Center.
“At first, we didn’t really put an age limit because we weren’t getting a lot of people out there,” Nick Riali, senior program coordinator for Parks and Recreation, said. “We’ve noticed that it was just growing a lot more. So, it was very popular with the community, but it also was really taking off.”
When the Athletics Division took over last year, it increased the number of pickleball playing days per week from three to five days. Rather than by demand, the change occurred to grow the sport and get more people to play.
“First, they didn’t want too many days because a lot of the seniors didn’t want to play back-to-back days, but then with the more offered days and kind of a break in between, they could do on their own or their selves,” Lane Supak, athletic program coordinator for Parks and Recreation, said. “I see it to where they come in and play two, three, four games, or they play a couple of hours, and then they’re gone. So, I think we give them more opportunity to play and more options.”
Although Pickleheads’ largest age bracket of pickleball players ranges from ages 18 to 34, the pickleball population in San Marcos is mainly seniors due to its origins. The Parks and Recreation Department hopes to gather more youth interest in pickleball over this summer.
Currently, Parks and Recreation, which hosts pickleball-related events in San Marcos, holds Adult Pickleball Open Play for ages 18 and up from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and Pickleball Open Play for ages 13 and up from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Later times coordinate more when children and teens are more awake compared to the morning and possibly gets more age groups to play simultaneously.
In an open play session, players bring their paddles and they mix-and-match partners throughout the session to meet one another and play with people at their level.
“We have a week-to-week program that we’re going to run for the youth to see the interest and then try to develop that a little bit more when we have time in and out of our programming,” Supak said.
Among the players attending the center’s open play sessions are groups such as the San Marcos Pickleball Club. It was created by Aaron Cortez, pickleball assistant coach/instructor, who moved to San Marcos two years ago. At the time, he had only heard about pickleball, but he decided to try it at a local rec center one day.
Cortez saw the camaraderie of the other players and how it brought them together, and as a person with schizophrenia, he felt that pickleball was an activity where he could laugh and just be a pickleball player.
“I see how much that it makes people happy and smile, and everyone who plays pickleball usually has some really great energy,” Cortez said. “And so, people feel that, and it helped me feel like I belong to a community, and I wanted to share that same feeling with others.”
Cortez created the San Marcos Pickleball Club through a Facebook group in November 2021. By the first year, there would be 68 members, but since then, that number has more than doubled to 179, consisting of people ranging from Austin to San Antonio and ages ranging from 18 to 88.
Cortez also helped launch Pickleballers@TXST, the pickleball club at Texas State University. While he heard pickleball being joked about as an “old person’s game,” he saw the need for the younger generation to bring what he sees every day in pickleball. He organized the first “College Night” last September to introduce the sport to Texas State students. Although only three people showed up, those students were able to start an Instagram and grow the club to more than 20 students. Texas State officially registered the club this January.
Pickleballers@TXST meets a few times weekly, sometimes joining the locals in their matches. Although Cortez takes a more voluntary position with the club, he is actively involved in the pickleball community. While the San Marcos Pickleball Club regularly meets at the San Marcos Activity Center, it also plays with other groups in and around San Marcos.
“Along the way, as I would visit other places, I would make connections and give them a number and invite them out to play,” Cortez said. “And that’s how everybody became cross-connected and became friends, and now we see them showing up at other places.”
To discover pickleball courts and learn more about the sport, visit Pickleheads. For more information on Adult Pickleball Open Play at the San Marcos Activity Center, visit San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department. For more information about Pickleballers@TXST, visit https://www.instagram.com/pickleballersattxst/?igshid=MmJiY2I4NDBkZg%3D%3D.

Donate to The University Star

Your donation will support the student journalists of Texas State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The University Star