With pickleball ready to take center stage at The Running Event 2023 in Austin next month, run retailers will have a chance to find out how and why they may want to carry products from the fastest-growing sport in America. With four key sponsors – Selkirk, K-Swiss, OS1st and Currex – ready to provide both product and advice, along with some demos and giveaways, pickleball promises to add some excitement and opportunity.

So it is timely that there is a top-level effort to address one of the concerns about pickleball — the sometimes unwanted noise associated with the ball hitting the paddle. The noise has caused some controversy and has perhaps slowed this phenomenal growth as communities deal with this new challenge.

Responding to this concern is USA Pickleball, the national governing body in the U.S., which this month launched what it is calling its Quiet Category for pickleball products, an initiative to reduce the sport’s sound output. Basically, the Quiet Category initiative will recognize pickleball products that reduce acoustic output during play without negatively impacting performance.

USA Pickleball’s Quiet Category pertains to equipment promotes products that deliver “50 percent or less of the acoustic footprint of equipment commonly sourced and used in community parks.”

As part of the effort, USA Pickleball has also expanded its Facilities Development Program, further supporting noise-reduction solutions for potentially sound-sensitive pickleball venues.

“We are excited to introduce the new Quiet Category for pickleball equipment and related initiatives as a pivotal step in the evolution of pickleball,” explains Mike Nealy, USA Pickleball chief executive officer. “With the sport’s growth, addressing noise concerns is essential to maintain a positive relationship between residential communities and facility operators. We are continuing to develop guidance and resources that offer short- and long-term solutions that continue to enhance the sport. By working together with manufacturers and the entire industry, we can develop quieter options that benefit everyone.”

USA Pickleball says it has researched and studied the acoustic output in the sport, making investments to lead the application of its resulting data. Collaborating with acoustic experts, USA Pickleball “gained an understanding and ability to address the challenges posed by noise pollution in pickleball facilities in sensitive locations.”

The Quiet Category guides manufacturers with thresholds “significantly reducing acoustic propagation during play.” USA Pickleball said it would “provide test fixture requirements and procedures to manufacturers during development, specification relief to enable manufacturers to creatively use new materials and configurations while preserving the nature of the game and ongoing collaboration and guidance to several global brands in sporting goods.”

With the mission to encourage manufacturers to “prioritize innovation in creating quieter products, the Quiet Category will encompass a wide range of products that includes paddles, balls, paddle covers, and noise mitigation screens for pickleball courts.”

USA Pickleball is also launching an incentive program for manufacturers to deliver noise-reduced solutions in the Competition-Certified Category.

To address noise concerns in local residential communities and enhance the experience for players, USA Pickleball will expand its site design, evaluation and acoustic mitigation services within its Facilities Development Program to “engage key principles throughout the development process, including greenfield builds, court conversions, and expansions, to assess key variables that affect the acoustic propagation.”

USA Pickleball noted that there have been several breakthroughs in new products that provide options for facilities designers and address concerns of weight, cost and attenuation levels that meet local ordinances and codes.

In addition to identifying target thresholds, USA Pickleball is engaged in referrals to new sites for existing solutions through collaborations with stakeholders, including AcoustiBlok and Pickleball United. Future initiatives include facilitating test installations, conducting uniform lab tests for accurate benchmarking and integrating solutions when running simulations on facilities in planning/development.

“The sport of pickleball is clearly experiencing a location problem given the lack of supply for places to play,” said Carl Schmits, USA Pickleball managing director of Facilities Development and Equipment Standards. “The rapid growth in recent years has driven municipalities and HOAs with limited resources to seek support to meet this overwhelming demand in a responsible manner. We have spoken with hundreds of facilities and concerned stakeholders and gathered considerable data related to this topic. We’re now well-equipped and ready to launch this program.”

USA Pickleball noted it plans to continue to invest in its acoustic research and programs, including “advancing the caliber of remote and on-site evaluations, materials guidance to manufacturers and providing input to municipalities for evolving codes and ordinances.”