Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America, attracting thousands of recreation players of all ages. Top athletes rely on it as a professional sport because it pays well.
The top athletes can earn more than $1 million a year, on average, through a mix of appearance fees, prize money, and sponsorship deals, if they play their shots well.
Also Read: 10 Best Pickleball Sets Of 2023
These high earnings, however, are more the exception than the rule. The majority of athletes make significantly less money, and some rising stars in the sport work full-time jobs during the week and compete for prizes on the weekends.
“Like anything else, if you’re talented and you work hard, not just at your craft on the pickleball court but also off it, you can make a really nice living,” said Josh Freedman, director of pickleball at Topnotch Management, an organisation that represents professional pickleball, tennis and soccer players.
He added. “The economics are much, much smaller for others who are just getting into the sport. They’re taking sponsorship deals for $500 or $1,000 to be an ambassador of some brand.”
Nevertheless, given that professional pickleball is still in its early stages, players may eventually find better financial success as the sport gains more support from viewers, investors, and sponsors.
Pickleball players’ earnings primarily consist of three things: tournament prize money, appearance fees or contract minimums, and sponsorship agreements.
The prize money for 2023, spread across six events, is expected to equal $5 million, according to Major League Pickleball, a team-based league and one of three professional pickleball tours. The tour, which has hosted three events this year so far, features 96 participants.
In the first three events of 2023, the player with the best earnings took home $125,000 in prize money, a tour representative told CBS MoneyWatch. The contracts that league players sign ensure that they will be paid for simply showing up, regardless of whether they perform in every event.
According to Major League Pickleball (MLP), a player might earn a maximum of $300,000 per year from appearance fees, so-called contract minimums, and tournament winnings.
MLP matches, which occur all year long, are scheduled from Thursday through Sunday. While some professionals play pickleball full-time and make their livelihood purely from pickleball-related income, others work additional jobs during the week and attend tournaments on the weekends.
In addition to playing in the league, professionals can participate in Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Association of Pickleball Players (APP) tournaments for cash prizes.
Over the course of 25 events, the PPA Tour will award $5.5 million in prize money to participants in 2023. This amount represents an increase in payouts of 83% from 2022.
According to the league, the average PPA pro received $96,000 in payouts in 2022 and many professional athletes participate in both tours, increasing their income.
Freedman who represents Pickleball professionals, who predicted a sharp rise in tournament prize money as the sport grows popularity and major companies try to cash in on the mania. Numerous companies have already entered the arena, including Monster Energy, Sketchers, and Fila.
Although there are many options in the rapidly growing sport and some players have signed rich deals with such businesses, it’s not an easy way to make a living. “It’s important if you’re going to get into this, it’s really hard, but once you work hard and you get results, it can be a really nice way to live,” Freedman said.