These Pickleball Players Made a Website to Find Courts and Communities in NYC
NYC Pickleball is Eric Ho and Ray Xiong's effort to connect pickleball players across the city.
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 peak of the pandemic, when Ho, 32, and Xiong, 31, very casually picked up the sport. Less than two years later, they just launched what could be the first New York City-based pickleball platform connecting players across the city.
Played with the use of paddles and a hollow ball patched with holes, 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. While traveling during 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 out.
"They talked about all the different locations and the times that people play because that's not enough to know that there are courts," Ho said in an interview with Thrillist. "You have to know when others are going to be there, because not all these courts have dedicated pickleball nets, and you have to have enough players because it's played in doubles, typically."
While they were three people (Xiong, Ho, and Xiong's sister) playing on unused tennis courts, they had witnessed groups of 20 people or so out there enjoying real pickleball courts that even had lights in the evening in other cities. They asked themselves if they had to move away from New York City in order to have the pickleball environment that they wanted. They quickly answered their own question: no. Instead, they rolled up their sleeves.
Many Facebook groups, Slack chats, Reddit posts, emails, and oddly exclusive invite-based pickleball app efforts later, they did it. They had the base and the sources for an actual platform. They reached out to local pickleball ambassadors, and gathered grateful consent to centralize the information. "To hear from these leaders, especially ones who have moved more recently to New York saying, 'I wish I had this before,' that's always been super encouraging," Xiong said.
Neither Ho and Xiong want to take credit for creating the NYC-based community, though. That was already there.
"Our goal is not to replace all the people who do the grassroots organizing in each community," Xiong said. "But to actually centralize the information and give them a place where they can share more about their own groups and the way that they want to engage."
Plus, the website can be a resource for tourists and locals alike, and anyone who grows in the sport can rotate groups depending on their skill level. On the website, tabs neatly organize the resources: guides, maps, events, lessons (with Ho, who is already a certified instructor), blogs, and leagues. Want to find an indoor court? They got you. Want to read interviews with NYC-based rising pickleball stars? Say no more.
According to Ho and Xiong, the city has been making moves to better support the pickleball community. They say the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has slowly been working to convert underutilized tennis courts into pickleball courts. From one tennis court, you can get four full pickleball courts. And while one tennis court supports two people for over an hour, the same space can host a community of around 20 pickleball players who will be constantly rotating between playing and chatting, since each game is around 10 minutes long. It's basically a social party—which, as Ho and Xiong point out, is a huge selling point for the sport, especially to younger people.