We caught up with Chris Olson from Pickleball Studio to talk about how pickleball changed his life, why he loves playing at Life Time facilities in winter, and what he thinks of his DUPR rating.
How has the pickleball space evolved since you came into it?
One of the biggest changes is that the age demographic lowered drastically. Before, when I showed up to my local courts, I was the youngest one by about 10, 15 years, and I'm 27. Now when I go to the courts, there's a bunch of people younger than me. There are these two kids that are probably about nine and ten that are always there, and there's a lot more college kids and whatnot.
The second change would probably be seeing how much more attention pickleball gets and how much the media presence has grown. Now, you always see pickleball, it's always in the news somewhere. I swear, every one of my friends knows what it is now. Even within pickleball, the production quality of events or channels has gotten so much better than when I first got into it. Coming from a video background, the commercials felt like they were something from the early 2000s. Social media felt nonexistent. Stuff like that was baffling to me. And now we've just seen all of the numbers go way up in terms of follower count. But also, people have just gotten smarter about how they produce content.
How important is your DUPR rating to you?
For me, it's a good ballpark to check whether I'm generally trending in the right direction. I'm probably not going down, but I don't agonize over it or anything. I just look at the big picture: is it going up over time, or am I going down over time? I don't want to go down, that would bother me.
What are your thoughts on Life Time facilities for Pickleball?
Life Time is huge in my area because the founder actually lives in Minnesota, so I see him pretty regularly and we’ll have a conversation. In Minnesota, it gets so cold in the winter that you can't play outside for at least six or seven months of the year. So for me, I always end up going to a Life Time in the winter because they have a bunch of different venues in my area and they keep expanding them. So in the winter, it's huge for me. And then, as a content creator, being able to bring my laptop and camera, get my stuff done on the court, and then get off, get some food, and work in a lounge is really nice for me. That way, if I want to work a little bit before I play pickleball, I can do that, pack up my stuff, get on the court, and then do a little bit after. So there's a lot of flexibility and then obviously having a gym is really nice.
What is your favorite paddle at the moment?
Right now, I keep going back to the Six Zero Double Black Diamond. If I use a paddle for probably three-plus months, that's probably a good sign because I hit every single paddle that comes out. Prototypes are constantly coming through my doorway, so if something lasts me that long, it's probably a pretty good paddle.
What is your favorite venue?
Indian Wells, it’s such an iconic tennis center; it was just amazing out there. You've got mountains in the background. It's hard to beat that.
What got you into pickleball, and how did it become a core part of your life and career?
My friend and I went to play pickleball one day, and he had no racquet sports background. He's never played tennis, he's never played ping pong, nothing. And he smoked me. I'm pretty sure I got pickled 11 to 1. It was so embarrassing to me how badly I got beat, especially as a former tennis player. So after that, I decided to buy a paddle and play until I could beat him. I got hooked and immediately went and told my wife and my siblings, and they got into it too.
How was the Pickleball Studio channel born?
I was looking at all the videos on pickleball at the time and thought that I could probably make videos that people find more beneficial. I started by making some commercials and social media stuff for some local companies here in Minnesota. Then, I remembered that I had an extensive bunch of background on YouTube and thought I could try making some videos about pickleball, now that I kind of knew the game.
My first video had about 40,000 views within two weeks, which surprised me. People clearly liked this content. That's when I thought, I should figure out how to make this my full-time thing. That didn't happen for many more months. But I was playing so much pickleball, and it was so hard to focus on my actual client work that I realized that if I didn’t make this my job, I’m going to drop the ball on my real work and that was going to be a problem!
Special thanks to Chris Olson for taking the time to catch up with DUPR and stay tuned for more stories like this soon!