US Padel Series: 5 Challenges Facing Padel In The US

With just 180 courts across 56 venues, Padel remains a small sport in the United States. While racquet sports such as Pickleball have exploded in popularity over the past few years, Padel has yet to make those same strides.

With that being said, the immensely passionate sports population in the U.S. combined with the entrepreneurial nature of the country makes a Padel boom likely in the future. Examples of Padel’s growth in popularity already exist in the form of Ultra Padel in Miami, which is set to include a whopping 29 courts, and Wynwood Padel Club which hosts 8 courts and is also located in Miami.

While the addition of high-end Padel clubs is part of the movement to grow the sport in the United States, a number of challenges remain before Padel can truly reach the next level of popularity in the United States.

Lack of Awareness

Perhaps the most pressing issue the United States faces in regard to growing the game of Padel is the lack of awareness amongst the population. Simply put, most Americans don’t know what Padel is; therefore, trying to spread the word about what the sport actually is and the benefits it provides has to be the aim of those looking to grow the game.

While the challenge to add another sport to the repertoire of Americans is legitimate, there are a number of ways awareness can be raised. For starters, organizations like The Padel School can provide online coaching and interactive content to reach new audiences. More now than ever, digital content is becoming a tool for people to learn about the sport.

Another way to increase awareness is to have local events and exhibitions, so people in the U.S. can see first-hand what the sport is all about. It’s one thing to see the sport online, but it’s another to see it in person or even play it. An example of this is the Pro Padel League which has made waves in its efforts to increasing awareness in the United States. The tour has received significant funding in recent years and includes appearances from some of the world’s best players.

Courts and Infrastructure

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of Padel as it attempts to break through in the United States is a lack of courts and the infrastructure required for the sport to grow. Padel is unique in its setup in that it requires a specific court and glass surrounding the court in order for the game to be played.

Further, a sport like Pickleball only requires a hard court and a net to be played, making it more attractive to those looking for an easy setup. All across the United States, pre-existing basketball and tennis courts are being transformed into Pickleball courts. Given the requirements for Padel to be played, Pickleball has a major advantage over Padel when it comes to having courts available.

With that being said, projects like Ultra Padel in Miami and more than 20 others currently in development with the USPA are attempting to provide the literal and metaphorical platform for Padel to explode in the United States. By 2030, the USPA hopes to have over 30,000 courts built and ready for use.

However, while Ultra’s ambition is clear for all to see, an emphasis must be put on coaching and not just on the volume of courts, which leads into the next major stumbling block.

Coaching and Language

One of the key sticking points in growing the game of Padel beyond the countries where it is currently popular is the access to proper coaching and the language barrier that comes with that. Padel was created in Mexico in 1969 and later made its way to Argentina and Spain, where the game is most popular currently. Because of this, many of the top professionals and coaches come from a Spanish or South American background and speak only Spanish, making it harder for places like the United States to get access to experienced coaches and high quality instruction.

Padel, while similar to tennis, requires a different approach and is less focused on athleticism and more focused on strategy and tactics. This key difference is often overlooked when new players are introduced to the game and only through proper coaching can new players be taught properly how to play the game.

Further, while building a large volume of courts is crucial to getting the game off the ground in the short-term, clubs must emphasize the importance of coaching at these clubs if they are to succeed in the long term. As seen in the Padel boom in places like Sweden, those who invested in their coaching programs saw benefit in the long run as players stayed at the clubs that offered high quality tuition and coaching versus clubs who just built the courts to rent out. Clubs should rightly want to stand out on the quality of their facilities and access to courts but must not forget the role proper coaching will play in facilitating long-term growth of the sport.

Fortunately, companies like The Padel School are already traveling the globe and transferring their years of padel coaching knowledge to clubs all over the world. The long-term growth of Padel in the United States is dependent upon experienced Padel coaches transferring their knowledge to pre-existing American racquet sport coaches, as opposed to ex-pro Padel players coming to the country for short-term financial gain.

The Name Problem

On top of the first issue discussed with a lack of awareness, there is another key issue with Padel in the United States: the name. When someone says Padel in the US, many might think you are referring to paddle tennis or platform tennis. This game is also played on an enclosed court with similar rules to tennis, but the surface of the ball and court is different, and you can’t run outside the court to hit the ball like in Padel.

Further, some of the Americans who do know about Padel, pronounce it as puh-dell, as opposed to pa-dill, frenetically. This quirk in pronunciation only makes it harder for the sport to break through in the country when not everyone knows which variation you are speaking about in a conversation.

With more awareness and more people playing the game, the name problem will eventually be resolved; but for now, it remains a large stumbling block for Padel to grow in the United States.

The Pickleball Problem

The Pickleball case study is a fascinating one when it comes to predicting how Padel could take off in the United States. On the one hand, the explosion of Pickle over the last few years offers proof that America is capable of picking up a new racquet sport and running with it. However, there is also an argument to be made that those who picked up Pickle will be reluctant to add another sport in Padel.

Further, as discussed previously, Pickleball has the luxury of not needing specific needs for courts other than needing a net. Hard courts all across the country have been adapted to suit the needs of Pickle, whereas building Padel courts requires much more time as well as resources. Also, Pickleball racquets can come as cheap as 20 pounds, whereas with Padel, most cost upwards of 100 pounds.

Another key factor in regards to Pickle is the rise in popularity amongst celebrities. Icons like Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Phelps, and Ellen DeGeneres are just a few of the avid Pickleball players that represent the game’s growth in the United States. Similarly, celebrities such as Eva Longoria and David Beckham are avid Padel players, continuing the trend from Pickle. Therefore, the role celebrities played in the growth of Pickle could be replicated for Padel as well. Altogether, the projects in the USPA pipeline is evidence of a growing interest in the sport and subsequent desire for courts.

Despite there being a number of challenges facing the US to fully adopt padel, if these challenges can be overcome, the long-term growth potential of the sport is exponential.


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