The first time Eric Ho and Ray Xiong bought pickleball paddles, they were actually looking for a Frisbee. It was the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, when Ho, 32, and Xiong, 31, very casually returned to the sport. Less than two years later, they just launched what could be the first New York-based pickleball platform connecting players across the city.
Played using paddles and a hollow ball with holes in it, pickleball is a sport that mixes elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Ho and Xiong’s website, simply dubbed NYC Pickleball, is a genuine attempt to foster the growing pickleball community in the area. On a trip in the summer of 2021, they saw that the San Francisco pickleball community had a great organizational website, and they kind of felt like they were missing something.
“They talked about all the different places and times people play because it’s not enough just to know there are courts,” Ho said in an interview with Thrillist. “You need to know when the others will be there, because not all of these courts have dedicated pickleball nets, and you need to have enough players because it’s usually played in doubles.”
While they were three people (Xiong, Ho and Xiong’s sister) playing on unused tennis courts, they had seen groups of around 20 people enjoying real pickleball courts that even had lights in the evening in some places. ‘other cities. They wondered if they should leave New York to have the pickleball environment they wanted. They quickly answered their own question: no. Instead, they rolled up their sleeves.
Many Facebook groups, Slack chats, Reddit posts, emails, and weirdly exclusive invitation-based pickleball app efforts later they did. They had the basis and the sources of a real platform. They reached out to local pickleball ambassadors and got grateful consent to centralize the information. “Hearing these leaders, especially those who have moved to New York more recently, saying, ‘I wish I had this before,’ it’s always very encouraging,” Xiong said.
However, neither Ho nor Xiong want to take credit for creating the New York-based community. It was already there.
“Our goal is not to replace all the grassroots organizers in each community,” Xiong said. “But to centralize information and give them a place where they can share more about their own groups and how they want to engage.”
Additionally, the website can be a resource for tourists and locals alike, and anyone who grows into the sport can rotate groups based on their skill level. On the website, tabs neatly organize resources: guides, maps, events, courses (with Ho, who is already a certified instructor), blogs and leagues. Do you want to find a covered court? They got you. Want to read interviews with rising pickleball stars based in New York? Say no more.
According to Ho and Xiong, the city has taken steps to better support the pickleball community. They say the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is slowly working to convert underused tennis courts into pickleball courts. From one tennis court, you can get four full pickleball courts. And while a tennis court accommodates two people for more than an hour, the same space can accommodate a community of around 20 pickleball players who will constantly alternate between playing and chatting, since each game lasts around 10 minutes. It’s essentially a social party which, as Ho and Xiong point out, is a huge selling point for the sport, especially for young people.