Pickleball, a paddle sport that combines aspects of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, is one of the fastest growing sports in America. The sport is especially popular with older adults as it provides a means for both competition and exercise. Limited research is available on the motivation and perceived benefits of participants in this unique and growing community. A total of 3,012 participants completed a survey instrument that included items from the Sport Motivation Scale, the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire, and the Quality and Importance of Recreational Services. Participants reported being more task oriented than ego oriented, suggesting that pickleball may effectively satisfy the need for persons to be engaged in physical activities that allow for the ongoing development of personal mastery. This finding is supported by respondents noting that their primary motivation to participate in pickleball involved mastering difficult training techniques. However, participants cited competition as the top perceived benefit to their participation. This result supports two possible conclusions that motivation and benefit are different and potentially disconnected constructs or that the benefit of competition among this sample of older persons is understood through the lens of personal mastery, whereby the demonstration of that mastery is only possible through competition.
Buzzelli is with Robert Morris University, Moon Township, PA. Draper is with Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA.
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