Badminton Is Replacing Pickleball As The It-Girl Sport For 2024

In recent years, pickleball has been everywhere. According to a 2023 report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball isn't only the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. with over 8.9 million players, but its participants have increased by a whopping 158.6% in the past three years alone. That's a lot of Pickleheads, as they call themselves.

But as much as pickleball is having its moment (and it will probably continue to do so), badminton is also garnering fans, both players and onlookers. With searches for badminton rackets jumping 80% and badminton bags increasing by 105%, Pinterest Predictions is already calling 2024 the year of badminton for the Gen Z and Millennial crowd. In other words, badminton is about to become your go-to sport for the next 365 days at the very least.

Like pickleball, badminton is a leisure sport that is accessible to anyone. It's also fantastic for your health. "Badminton offers a complete workout with cardiovascular fitness, agility, coordination, strength and balance," says Linda French, two-time badminton Olympian and CEO of USA Badminton, in a story by Woman & Home. Basically, it's a total workout and one that can be super intense if you were to get Monica Geller-level competitive about it. It's also economical. All you need is a set of paddles, a few shuttlecocks, and a net — a tennis net that's been lowered a bit will do perfectly.

How pickleball and badminton differ

Both pickleball and badminton require the same things: a paddle for each player, a net, and a ball (extra balls are always a good idea). But where pickleball uses a flat paddle and a ball very similar to a whiffle ball, badminton is played with a stringed racket that's a bit smaller than a tennis racket and a birdie (also known as a shuttlecock), as opposed to a ball. A birdie looks like a shooting star with a rubber ball on one end and plastic cone-shaped feathers on the other end. It's the birdie's unique design that allows it to fly through the air like a bird every time it's hit. A pickleball net is 34 inches in height, while the one used in badminton is 61 inches (roughly 5 feet).

Pickleball is played at a faster speed than badminton and the ball is allowed to bounce, à la tennis (so you can still rock tenniscore fashion). In badminton, the birdie doesn't (and can't) bounce. When it comes to court sizes, they're the same size, but just drawn differently. To adjust a pickleball court to fit one for badminton, it's just a matter of redrawing the lines and remembering that what was once the kitchen is now the service line — in both games this is the area where volleying isn't allowed. Although pickleball is scored up to 11 points, badminton (like tennis) goes up to 21 points.

Reasons to take up badminton

Whether played between two people or two sets of couples, badminton is a fun way to spend your downtime. Like pickleball, it doesn't cost much to play (the equipment is very affordable), and it's healthy as all get out. According to a 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, regularly playing badminton "may lead to an improvement in all areas," meaning not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and socially too. 

While pickleball may be the trendiest sport of the moment, if Pinterest Predictions is right, we'll see badminton giving it a run for its money. Badminton can already boast 339 million players worldwide and 735 million fans. With those numbers, it's safe to assume that getting on board with badminton will put you in great company, as its cool factor increases even more as 2024 continues. Behold: it's the it-girl sport in the making.