Sport

Having discovered a pickleball passion, Lloyd hopes to inspire others to find theirs

Lloyd Attrill, second from left, is the Founder and Owner of Isle of Wight-based The Pickleball Store and a Student Enterprise Consultant at the University of Southampton. (L-R) Bernie Audibert, Lloyd, Rochelle Penrose, Thaddea Lock, Emerson Gregory, Peps Giuliano.

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: September 5, 2023 | Updated: 5th September 2023

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the US, with an estimated 4.8 million players.

In the UK, however, those who have even heard of the sport might associate it more with an older generation of players.

The Pickleball Store logoThis is a misconception, says Lloyd Attrill, 27, the Isle of Wight-based founder of The Pickleball Store.

“It’s a sport which can be played by anyone from the age of five to 95”, explained Lloyd.

“And that’s one of the best things about it, you can play with people you’d never normally meet – I played with a 70-year-old recently and got beaten pretty decisively.”

Pickleball is a mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong. Played on a smaller court than tennis, it uses a hard paddle and lighter ball.

On a visit to the US in December 2019, Lloyd encountered pickleball for the first time.

Lloyd Attrill“I saw people playing it, and thought it looked fun,” Lloyd said.

“I’m crap at tennis and rubbish at badminton, but I gave it a go and absolutely loved it.

“It made me question why it wasn’t a thing in the UK – It turns out it is, but it’s not as accessible as I would like, especially living on the island.

Lloyd started watching the professional players in the US, dreaming of the sport reaching the same scale in the UK.

“I wanted to play more pickleball, so the next question was ‘how can I do that?’ I was also underwhelmed with the retailing of the equipment in the UK. There are some really great companies making paddles, for example, but I felt they weren’t represented the way I thought they should be.”

Lloyd took his first steps in business while at the University of Winchester, importing hats from the US which he would then carry over to a local embroider to be stitched before selling them on.

After finishing at university, he started up a social media marketing business with Steven Northam, founder of IncuHive, before moving into the world of logistics with a company importing and exporting mining equipment.

Boy playing pickle ballDrawing on this experience, Lloyd started calling pickleball companies in the US, eventually getting a few of them to believe in his vision.

“I think one of the key elements of The Pickleball Store is the hybrid approach of in-person and online.

“People will have preferences on their paddle, and that’s something you get the best feel for by using them and finding what works best for you, which is why we take a smaller version of the store on the road with us.

“One of the things I’m hoping to set up on the island is a dedicated court with a store alongside it, and my dream would be to set these up all over the country.

“Until then, I’ve tried to develop the website in a way which guides people through the process of picking a paddle with an experience as close as possible to being in-person.”

Lloyd is also trying to support and grow the sport by sponsoring a team in the Premier Pickleball League, the top tier of the sport in the UK.

University of Southampton logoWhen he’s not dinking balls over the net, commentating on pickleball games or travelling across the UK, Lloyd works as a Student Enterprise Consultant at the University of Southampton.

“It’s my dream job,” he explained, “having the chance to sit down with students who are in a similar position to one I’ve been in, and support and mentor them at the very early stages of starting out in business.

“It’s the most rewarding role I think I’ve ever been in, because you get to watch someone you’ve supported in their first year grow and grow in the second and third. Because it’s extra-curricular, the students are there voluntarily and are therefore even more committed.”

“I’d say I’m more of a coach than a mentor. If someone comes to me because they want to start a rocket-propulsion business, I may not know anything about the science but I can still coach them on the principles of business.

“One of the main things I talk about is validating your idea – market research is vital.

“I also think it’s important to find out why they want to start their business. If it’s just because they want to make a lot of money, it’s less likely they’ll be successful than if they’re doing something they’re passionate about – as I’ve done with The Pickleball Store.”

And it’s this which informs one of the main pieces of advice Lloyd would give to anyone, whether in business or in life.

“I would urge everyone to go out and try something they’re interested in, whether that’s pickleball or something else entirely.

“And if you’re a student or someone just starting your business career, take time to explore things and find out what you’re passionate about then, most importantly, validate it!”

Those wishing to try the sport out for themselves can either contact their local sports centre, find a club on the Pickleball England website, or join a Facebook group dedicated to players.

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