Cincinnati’s sports scene reaches from Bengals football to Reds baseball and is rich in history and die-hard fans. The college sports fandom runs deep, with the XU and UC basketball rivalry, and even high school programs are becoming more and more prestigious and intense (with those rivalries lasting well into adulthood).
But the love of sport doesn’t stop there for Cincinnatians. Throughout the city, you can find long-standing golf courses, bowling alleys, hiking trails, running races, and now a very vibrant pickleball scene. And a member of our own Cincinnati Jewish community is helping to lead the charge.
Brice Gottesman, a lifelong Cincinnatian, is a brand manager for one of the key players in the pickleball surge, Baddle. Built in the heart of Over-the-Rhine in February 2021, Baddle prides itself on being local and created their company to fill the gap between the serious and competitive pickleball brands, and those that were all fashion and show. The company is all about high quality products that look and feel great while helping the player to look and feel their best as well.
Part of Gottesman’s role as the Baddle brand manager is encouraging the already significant growth of the sport locally. Brice shared his thoughts on this huge upswing in pickleball and said it has a lot to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It really picked up during the pandemic like a lot of outdoor sports,” said Gottesman. “If people wanted to be around other people, they had to be outside. And because of this, the sport grew.”
Created in 1965 as a game to play when the inventors couldn’t find a full set of rackets to play badminton, pickleball provided a fun activity for families to play together. By 1972, a corporation was developed to protect this new sport. Fast forward to 1984 and The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (which would later become USA Pickleball) was established, and by 1990 the sport was being played in all 50 states.
Pickleball has steadily grown, gaining more and more fans and players. Now, after a nearly 30 percent increase in memberships in the year 2022, USA Pickleball has reached the mark of 70,000 members as of February 2023, with the Sports & Fitness Industry Association naming pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row.
“There’s such a low barrier to entry,” said Gottesman. “There’s only 5 or 6 rules you really have to remember, there’s a lot less running than other sports, a lot less movement, making it great for all types of people and athletes.”
When asked what he loves about the Cincinnati pickleball scene, Gottesman says: the community.
“Once I started working with Baddle, and getting out and into the community, I saw that this is a big philanthropy sport,” explained Gottesman. “It started with older folks when it started getting popular, and a lot of those individuals are retired and have extra time, and they do these philanthropic pickleball matches and events. I was getting requests daily as a brand manager to do charitable events across the US.”
Locally, Gottesman and the Baddle company have contributed to multiple philanthropic events and causes, including a tournament in association with the Mayerson JCC and a partnership with Cincinnati Recreation Commission, and they sponsor the gear supply at the new Sawyer Point Pickleball Courts. Baddle has even infiltrated that deep Cincinnati sports pride by partnering with the Cincinnati Bengals. For Gottesman, Baddle, and the sport of pickleball, it is all about getting involved with the community.
“When you’re out there playing, everyone is outgoing and inclusive when it comes to meeting people on the courts,” said Gottesman. “I’ve met a few people I would have never known if I didn’t play pickleball. Even my Uber driver the other night took my phone number so she could reach out and connect to learn more, since she used to play tennis, and wanted to give pickleball a try.”