ALTHOUGH THEIR music video “The Pickleball Song” has now been viewed more than four million times, Penn and Kim Holderness had never played the sport until June of this year. That all changed with an invitation from a very enthusiastic neighbor wearing a pickleball T-shirt. “She showed up holding duct tape from painting the kitchen and four pages of rules, and she just kind of walked us through it,” says Penn, whose wife was the first family member to give it a try. “Kim went along, and I hadn’t heard from her for about an hour, so I thought, Wow, she must be having fun. And then I got there and jumped in—and I ended up playing for a couple of hours.”
Like so many, they were hooked at first volley. But this being the Holdernesses, they quickly turned their newfound passion into another wildly popular video. The Raleigh, North Carolina, family—which also includes kids Lola, 14, and Penn Charles, 11—first came to attention in 2013 when their holiday video card, “Xmas Jammies” (set to the tune of Will Smith’s “Miami”), went viral and landed them interviews on the Today show and a parody skit on Saturday Night Live.
Offering original lyrics, synthesizer notes, break dancing, and the observation that Kim used to be chill but then she discovered pickleball and it’s “a really big dill,” “The Pickleball Song” launched on YouTube on June 21. While filming it, Penn said “The Pickleball Song” would be a niche video. But true to their other videos, “it did really well. Anytime a video gets three million views, you can say it was a success.” As of publication, this one has garnered 3.7 million on Facebook alone, and considerably more than four million when you add in Instagram TV and YouTube.
When they’re not producing viral videos, running an entertainment production company from their home, and managing school drop-offs and pickups and carpools to kid activities, the family makes a point of getting in some pickleball. “This is something that all four of us can play,” Penn says. “It’s a chance for us to all get out and do something together.” They’ve stocked up so they can make the most of their rare moments of downtime. “Kim ordered paddles like 15 minutes after we got done playing for the first time, and we have a blue bucket of pickleballs that we keep in the garage,” he continues. “Our son is really into setting records, so we’ll hit in the driveway and try to get a record of how many times you can volley a pickleball back and forth; I think we’ve gotten to 60.”
The family also looks forward to taking their game on the road and playing pickleball when they travel. “If we go to any beach town, we are bringing these paddles with us; it’s a great way to break up a vacation and not stare at screens,” Penn says. “Once you play pickleball, you get kind of hooked.” It’s all part of—as they call it in the video—“P-ball life.”