Some sports will inevitably suffer from the movement, while others will thrive.

Here, we have put together a list of sports that are benefiting from the trend by experiencing the fastest growth in terms of participants and the sports that are catching the most attention of sports enthusiasts and investors.

Hottest Trending sports

Advantage, Pickleball

A list of fast-growing sports wouldn't be complete without mentioning Pickleball - and its close cousin Paddle - as they are still showing consistent growth.

  • To put it simply, both tennis alternatives that are played with slightly different equipment, court size, and rules. Pickleball has an advantage because it can be played on regular tennis courts with a few extra lines, while Paddle needs its specific courts, special gear, and lighting.
  • Pickleball dominates the North-American market, with participation growing 171% between 2018-2022 to reach 36.5M US players in early 2023. Pickleball courts and court-times are still a rare commodity, even though clubs and courts are continuously being built. To meet demand, an additional $900M USD would be needed to build 25,000 courts across the states. 

That being said, Paddle is growing even faster - especially in Spain - and now attracts 25M+ players worldwide.

Major League Pickleball and Pro Paddle League are both attracting celebs and athlete legends as players - Agassi, Roddick, and McEnroe or Federer, Jabeur, Fritz and Del Potro - and investors - Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Kevin Durant, Beckham, Federer, Nadal, and Neymar.

3-on-3 Basketball

  • An exciting variation of Basketball borrows from the street culture and the game played in many urban areas, the sport is played - as the name implies - between two teams of 3 players that compete over a half-court and a single hoop.
  • In 2017, hip-hop star and actor Ice Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz, founded the Big3 league that now includes 12 America teams that dress former NBA and international players. The league attracted a growing number of fans ever since, enough to convince the CIO to introduce 3-on-3 Basketball in the 2020 Tokyo games.

Other team sports like ice Hockey are introducing 3-on-3 variations with the 3ice pro league that competes during the off-season.

Hyrox - Fitness competition for everyone

  • Launched in 2017 in Germany, Hyrox is a simplified version of CrossFit that seeks mass adoption by fitness enthusiasts rather than the hardcore burpee fanatics. Hyrox training and competition are structured around a selection of 8 simple and safe high-intensity exercises - SkiErg or Battling rope, Sled push & pull, Burpee, Rowing, Farmers’ carry, Lunges, and Wall balls - each separated by 1km run.
  • Hyrox gained 100%+ YoY participation to attracted 90,000 participants in 2023 over 40+ official competitions worldwide. During this time, CrossFit saw a drop in participation that led to layoffs and management reshuffle.

Olympic lifting

Strength training, a top ranking fitness & wellness trend in 2023 is set to retain its #1 status in 2024, is an effective way to build and maintaining muscle mass that contribute to optimal metabolic and cardiovascular health.

  • Olympic lifting comprises barbell snatching and clean & jerk complex motions that promote muscle mass growth and improve stability & coordination - benefits that can transfer to many other sports and activities.
  • Olympic lifting rewards skills over strength, is self-paced, and appeals to all body sizes and types - small size even being an advantage. All features that are particularly attractive to women, which represent a growing 35% of participants.

This form of strength training is still thriving in the post-pandemic era; safe to say that it should survive the CrossFit’s demise.

As a compromise between skill-demanding Olympic lifting and bootcamp-like high intensity group training, Kettlebell training is also trending. MADabolics - who popularized the concept - have grown nearly 3 times in the past 2 years to reach 100 venues, en route for 200 venues in the States only.

Hydrofoil boarding

  • Hydrofoiling includes water sports like surf, kite or windsurf that use boards equipped with an under-water hydrofoil fin that lifts the boards off the water. This added contraption makes it easier for surfers to stay upright and makes smaller waves or weaker winds rideable.
  • The sport rose in popularity with surf and kite surf legend Robbie Naish who introduced the equipment to his line of product. As a testament to the rise in popularity, he was since joined by the French mass-market brand Decathlon who now holds a line of hydrofoil equipment.

Traditional surfing is making its official competition debut on the 2024 Paris Olympics’ Polynesian shores. It remains to be seen whether hydrofoiling will be able to surf its wave.

Kick Volleyball

Kick Volleyball or Sepak takraw was popularized in Malaysia in the 1960s and is now taking over Southeast Asian countries and other parts of the world.

  • Played between two teams of 2, 3 or 4 players on courts resembling those used for badminton, the sport requires players to exchange a Volleyball-like ball with jumping and bicycle kicks. Sepak takraw can be played both indoors or outdoors on hard-surface, grass or sand courts.

Even if more skills are required at entry than the currently thriving tennis alternatives, Kick Volleyball should appeal to Soccer or Volleyball players.

  • The recent successes of 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 US national teams at 2022 Sepak takraw world championships should promote the sport to American enthusiasts. Club owners and organizers should take note of the Pickleball-Paddle court shortage and start making room for Kick Volleyball courts.

Teqball - When soccer meets table tennis

  • The Hungarian-born Teqball combines elements of European football and table tennis. The sport can be played between 2 or 4 players that exchange a regular football-size ball over on a curved-top table similar to table tennis with any parts of their body except arms and hands. Teqball can be played both indoors or outdoors on hard-surface or sand courts.
  • Introduced at the 2021 Asian Beach Games and the 2023 European Games, Teqball is set to be officially introduced at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Until then, mote Teq clubs should start appearing in America and follow in BellaTeq club’s steps - the first all Women Teq club.

Brazilian former football legend Ronaldinho is listed among Teqball ambassadors while many high-ranked European football clubs have Teq tables (FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Paris SG) and adepts (Paul Pogba, Mbappé, and Beckham).

Off-course golf

  • Off-course golf - or virtual golf - is played in fitness & entertainment centers equipped with ball sensors and screens onto which players can tee off on iconic golf courses. This alternative to traditional golf makes the game accessible to players of all skills & ages, that can share the course year round, in any conditions and in more flexible formulas - read shorter game times
  • Off-course golf particularly appeals to Gen Zs and to women - who make up for 41% of participants. The number of American off-course golf players (28M) exceeded that of traditional golf (25M) in 2021 and has grown continuously ever since. Golf equipment giant Callaway recognized the trend and acquired Topgolf virtual golf venues for $2.6B.

Other popular and fast-growing golf alternatives include Disc golf - played with Frisbees, and Footgolf - played with footballs.

Balance bike racing

Balance bike racing rounds our list because it is never too early to start being physically active - and be trendy doing so.

  • Normally catering to kids 2 to 6 years of age, balance bikes have become an increasingly popular intermediary step between tricycles and pedal bikes. A growing number of kids indeed use such bikes while skipping training wheels to gain stability and acquire skills that will benefit cycling and other activities.
  • The leading balance bike brand Strider just sold its 4 millionth bike and organizes 4-stage world championships held on pump tracks and obstacle courses each year. This year’s Japanese event marked the first time the event was held outside the United-States and attracted 800 racers from 12 countries. 

Mixed gender sports

More of a tendency that applies to many events than a sport in itself, mixed-gender categories are increasingly being introduced in team sports - where rosters will include both female and male players (eg Tennis doubles) - or in individual relay sports (eg Tracks and Fields, Triathlon).

Mixed-gender events were first introduced at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in tracks and fields, Badminton, Judo, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis and Triathlon, and the initiative is being reiterated at the 2024 Games.

This trend is in line with the quest for gender equality in sports - which should be attained in Paris 2024 - and is still (unfortunately) an effective way to use men athletes’ attractiveness on equally skillful and spectacular female athletes.

The common denominators

At first glance, these sports may seem to cater to very diverse player bases and require equally diverse athletic skills. However, they also share common fundamental features; features that are no strangers to the current societal need to disconnect and focus on wellbeing and sustainability.

Success is never guaranteed, but we believe that in order to thrive, the next sports or activities should check one or more of these boxes. Similarly, the next Sports Tech should appeal to sports that

  • Accessibility - player-friendly alternatives of traditional sports with low - athletic and investment - barriers to entry;

  • Adaptability - sports that can be adapted to a number of settings and conditions;

  • Equality - of gender and skill level;

  • Flexibility - of court sizes, player numbers, and rule book;

  • Globalization - traditional and regional sports going global.

Stay tuned for more

Sébastien Lacroix
Sébastien Lacroix

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