If someone asked you what the fastest growing sport in America currently is, chances are you wouldn’t know that the correct answer is pickleball.

While pickleball has been around since 1965, its explosive growth has only occurred in the past eight years. There are currently three million people playing the sport in the United States, which represents a growth rate of 385 percent, since just 2010.

Livingston resident Rebecca Lederman’s parents started playing pickleball in Florida years ago and tried recruiting her to play. Like many people who first hear the name “pickleball,” Rebecca was hesitant and thought that it must just be a sport for older people. It took some convincing, but eventually she gave it a try.

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“Once I put that paddle in my hand, I was hooked,” said Rebecca. “Now, the only thing I don’t love about the sport is its name because it can be a barrier to getting people to try it.”

Luckily, it wasn’t difficult for Rebecca to convince her friend and tennis teammate, Sari Lee, to give the sport a try, and soon the pair was playing multiple times a week for hours at a time.

“I loved how quick-paced the game was and we met so many new people—most of whom we would never have met otherwise,” said Sari.

Last year, when winter rolled around and prevented them from consistently getting on the courts, Sari had an idea.

She approached Rebecca about creating "Pickleball Palace" to provide indoor pickleball to those wanting to escape the elements of the cold, wind and darkness. Not only would it make for a more comfortable, climate-controlled experience, it would also offer guaranteed play for those who don’t have flexibility in their schedules to wait on the weather. 

Pickleball Palace formally launched on October 13, 2018, with an open house kickoff party hosting well over 150 people. Just three months in, the women, who are both Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR) certified professionals, are now running many youth and adult clinics in Livingston, Roseland and Chatham, in addition to a league for juniors and adult open-play sessions, twice per week.

They also teach private and semi-private lessons, by appointment, to a number of clients.

The business partners say one of the most attractive elements of pickleball is that it’s a sport for everyone, whether they are athletic or non-athletic, young or old. While it takes a lot of hard work to get to playing at a competitive level in pickleball, one benefit of the sport is that most people can play recreationally, after just one or two sessions on the court.

As a result, pickleball is a great family activity, allowing for people of different ages and skill levels to be on the court together. In fact, Pickleball Palace has even offered family clinics, where parents and children learned the sport together.

In general, each pickleball game lasts approximately 15 minutes. So, unlike tennis, where you are on the court with the same players for the duration of the hour-plus session, pickleball players frequently switch partners and opponents, keeping games quick and interesting. The sport is social and fun, and music and mingling are always welcome.

While pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court, with a paddle and whiffle-like ball, the women say it’s a great form of exercise. The sport offers a great cardio workout, and many athletes transition over to it because it is easier on the body.

The partners recommend that anyone interested in playing pickleball participates in a few clinics to get started. While it looks a lot like mini-tennis, the rules, the scoring, the strokes and, most importantly, the strategy differ, tremendously.   

Sari and Rebecca are very excited to share their passion for pickleball with the community. Aside from running clinics and offering lessons, they also run socials and can host parties. They also have plans to offer summer camps, and suggest that when companies are thinking about team-building events, they consider pickleball!

For more information, call 917-689-1716 or email pickleballpalacenj@gmail.com. You can also find Pickleball Palace on Facebook.