Pickleball has taken the US by storm. What was once considered a sport designed to be just for senior athletes, pickleball is now considered the fastest-growing sport in the nation, with a market of about 36.7 million players of all adult age groups across the country.
Among that player population is a rising group of college-age adults hoping to bring the sport to the nation’s campuses. The sport is often praised for its high accessibility, making it an excellent candidate for college intramural sports.
Pickleball offers college students a wide variety of benefits as a recreational sport, such as being a social outlet, a way to improve one’s physical fitness and an outlet for stress relief. The game is easy to learn and play, allowing for a limited barrier of entry and a more diverse group of players to come together.
Pickleball is a sport that’s highly focused on building communities, a core value that aligns with almost every college campus. As long as students have access to the necessary equipment, such as paddles and balls, and an area that can be used as a pickleball court, it’s very likely that pickleball clubs and communities will flourish and become an essential part of the connection felt while on campus.
Starting A College Pickleball Club
Beyond recreational play, competitive pickleball leagues have also been forming at the collegiate level. Some of pickleball’s best-known professional organizations, like Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating (DUPR) and USA Pickleball (USAP), have started offering club memberships to college teams looking to compete on a higher level.
DUPR and USAP collegiate programs help students connect with the pickleball community and offer various programs for improving their school’s pickleball resources.
USAP offers official collegiate club memberships, college-level sponsored events, and a collegiate grant program for purchasing eligible pickleball equipment. DUPR, on the other hand, has constructed a collegiate tournament system that offers over $100,000 in scholarship money for students who win at regional and championship tournaments.
Major League Pickleball (MLP) and DUPR just announced the official launch of collegiate and junior vertical efforts. The initiative will allow youth and collegiate-level pickleball groups to become better connected with a multitude of the MLP’s resources, allowing younger players better opportunities within the sport.
But how does a campus get connected with these programs? We talked with Miami University Pickleball’s Founder and President, Emma Wensink, about how the club was formed and the process of becoming a DUPR-certified club.
Wensink first started the club in 2021 during her sophomore year as a way to break through the monotony during the height of COVID. After starting out small with just a few friends, interest in the organization gained quickly, with the club even reaching 90 members at one point.
“I feel like we were all just cooped up during COVID, and I went to go play tennis, found pickleball, fell in love,” said Wensink. “I figured out there wasn’t a club at Miami and started my own.”
Now, Miami University Pickleball consists of a group of 35 dedicated players who are all right around the 4.0 skill level. With such a solid player base, the organization knew they wanted to participate in the DUPR tournaments.
When asked about her experience with the DUPR Digital Club registration process, Wensink said it was easy and straightforward. According to DUPR’s website, any college club can apply to participate in their tournaments if the team has at least two male and two female players.
“It’s pretty easy, you just have to apply online and they’ll send you an email back whenever your account is being activated. You definitely have to be an active club at a university, fill out the application, and they’ll let you know.”Emma Wensink, Club President of Miami University Pickleball
Signing Up For DUPR
DUPR’s 2023 Collegiate Tournament Schedule consists of 12 Regional Tournaments, a Collegiate Individual National Championship, and the Collegiate Team National Championships at the end of the season. DUPR strives to provide these opportunities to schools nationwide and encourages all colleges to apply to further expand their regional tournaments to new cities with each season.
As previously mentioned, all your school needs is four players, two men and two women, in order to participate in the five traditional event brackets: men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Then, you can apply to become a DUPR Digital Club by contacting [email protected] to have a club created for your school.
Once DUPR has confirmed your Digital Club, you’ll then be able to register at the different tournament events available on their calendar, seen here. Colleges can also apply for DUPR’s Collegiate Travel Stipend program, which offers colleges up to $1,000 in travel expense coverage.
Getting Connected With USA Pickleball
USAP offers its official club membership benefits to college clubs. Traditional Club Membership costs $50/year and Club Membership + costs $200/year, and includes the following benefits:
- Discounts and access to USAP Approved Software Providers for club management tools.
- Club rewards 5% discount on eligible purchases at PickleballCentral.com. Another 5% of those purchases will then be awarded to the club in the form of an annual gift certificate.
- USAP Official Club Banner
- Subscription to Pickleball Magazine
- Club + Exclusive Benefit: Liability insurance packages
Many USAP-sanctioned tournaments also support college-level play. Check the list of all USAP tournaments here to see if there are tournaments near your school.
Finally, USAP allows Official College/University Club members to apply for a USA Pickleball Youth & College grant for up to $350 to be used for the purchase of eligible pickleball equipment.
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