Like millions of other Americans, Reachel Beichley was feeling restless during the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s when she turned to pickleball.
“That was one of the things that you could do [during the pandemic] because it was spaced out and you could do it outside,” she says.
And she wasn’t the only local – OP is now known as the most pickleball obsessed city.
Benchley had never even picked up a paddle before, but within a couple of weeks, she was hooked. Now, almost four years later, she plays the game two hours a day.
Beichley, a KC local, is one of more than 36.5 million pickleball players in the U.S., according to the Association of Pickleball Players. Pickleball has been named the fastest growing sport in America for the third year in a row. The sport is often described as a combination of ping-pong, badminton and tennis—mostly because that’s its founders’ vision.
On a hot summer day in 1965, Joel Pricthard and Bill Bell of Washington state wanted to play badminton with their families but couldn’t find their equipment—so they improvised. Using ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball on an old badminton court, pickleball was born.
The pickleball boom has certainly made waves in KC, with a variety of clubs and courts offering residents the chance to learn how to play the popular sport.
Overland Park was recently named the nation’s most pickleball-obsessed city, based on an online search volume study. The city has over seventy-five different pickleball courts, including Chicken N Pickle, a restaurant-slash-pickleball court facility.
Adding to the city’s pickleball-loving reputation, the sport’s top professional athletes competed at the Vulcan Kansas City Open at Overland Park’s Elite Tennis and Wellness center in late August. The winners will be heading to the national pickleball championship.
“The passion for pickleball in Overland Park is truly special, and we’re thrilled to share the unique energy and excitement of our events with another incredible fan base hungry to see the best and brightest in the game,” says Connor Pardoe, CEO of Carvana Professional Pickleball Association Tour, the organization that hosted the event.
For players who are not quite at the professional playing level—yet—Johnson County hosts a pickleball league organized by skill level. Beichely plays in the league with her son when he’s not at college.
While every player plays the game in a different way, almost all can agree that one of the best parts of the sport is the social aspect.
“One of the things we really like about pickleball is getting together for a glass of wine afterwards,” says Ellen Junger, another KC area pickleball player who plays with Beichely. “That’s part of our tradition with pickleball.”