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Javier Regalado

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Leadership: Pickleball's Greatest Asset

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America, and probably around the world. It is becoming quite popular in some countries but is still unknown in most. So how do we replicate the tremendous success in some nations to other regions of the world? The answer is: vision, perseverance. resilience and overall leadership.

There are several challenges that we are confronting to expand the sport in Mexico. For starters, the name itself becomes a barrier. The word pickleball is difficult just to pronounce for people whose native language is something other than English. Furthermore, it doesn't have any suggestion of being a racket sport.

That doesn't mean it can't be sold; it just means that we must be very creative. After all, soccer, tennis, baseball, and ping-pong are names with different language origins. Another challenge has to do with the accessibility of the sport

Pickleball has grown tremendously in Canada and the USA because racket sports are highly accessible in public areas. You can find public tennis courts, or basketball courts, in just about any small town or big city. In some countries like ours, however, racket sports are mostly located in private clubs. Therefore, they are perceived as elitist sports.

It is believed that because soccer is the most popular sport in our country, it is highly accessible. I refute that. The results in international competition support my argument. European countries like Germany, France, Italy and Spain have an infrastructure that makes soccer very accessible to everyone. Obviously, there are other factors for their international success, but this is the very bottom layer of their success. Although soccer is played wide in our country, well-designed and built installations are limited for a country of approximately 135 million people.

High demographic growth of our cities for the past 40 years has made the cost of land very expensive. Large areas required for soccer fields inside large cities become very difficult to sustain.

One other challenge we are confronting is the idiosyncrasy of our nation. As I mentioned before. racket sports are perceived as elitist, only played inside private clubs. Soccer success around the world, on the other hand, is based on how it has been positioned since the very beginning as a sport of the people. Male people, I might add. Until very recently, women's soccer and most sports now highly practiced by women did not have the support that they are beginning to have. So, racket sports have remained niche or specialized sports mainly played at private clubs and mostly practiced by a male population.

The incredible thing about pickleball is that it has the ingredients to overcome these and other challenges. It is easy to learn and inexpensive to play. It is fun and it is great exercise. It is highly inclusive. The nature of the rules allows for a wide diversity of population to practice it.

In Mexico we will have a very exciting calendar of events for 2022. We will start the year hosting two APP tournaments in February, one in Guadalajara and the other in Cancun. Come join us to play awesome pickleball, meet new international players, and visit our beautiful country.