“It was a great balance of competitive athleticism and casual social play, and a safe and effective outlet when most activities were unsafe during quarantine,” Stone, a third-year student from Nellysford, said.
“As someone who is not super-athletic, I loved how approachable the sport is,” said Wood, also a third-year. “The rules are easy to pick up, and it’s easy to progress pretty quickly. It’s also not nearly as physically demanding as tennis or other racquet sports, especially when playing doubles.”
Eventually, Stone and Wood discovered that UVA didn’t have a pickleball club and decided, along with fellow students Eliza Woodfin and Eliza Carr Schmidt, to start their own. Now in its second year, the club – which UVA President Jim Ryan visited last spring – is thriving.
“We were blown away when over 300 people signed up to join the club at the activities fair,” Wood said. “Since the first few weeks [of the semester], the numbers at practice have been around 20 to 30 each day.”
The pickleball craze at UVA mirrors what is happening both in Charlottesville and around the country. According to a recent report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, there are 4.2 million pickleball players in the United States, with a 21% increase in participants from 2019 to 2020.