The sport has been described as including aspects of tennis, badminton, and ping pong but, in reality, it is none of those – aside, perhaps, the fact that there’s a net and rackets involved in all four games.
Perhaps the nature of the game can best be found in its origins. In 1965, or so the story goes, two fellows named Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell returned from a round of golf to find their families sitting around, bored out of their skulls. The enterprising gentlemen decided to set up the badminton net, but failing to find the requisite equipment, they improvised by lowering the net to ground level and using ping pong paddles and a perforated wiffle ball to entertain their families.
Makeshift rules followed and the game spread and evolved, but the core purpose remained; to have fun and be accessible to all ages and abilities.
Today the sport is growing at an exponential rate in North America, often to the dismay of tennis players who arrive at their neighbourhood courts to find a new set of lines drawn on the court surface de-marking a much smaller pickleball court.
Regardless of the grumbling of some tennis players, the Saanich Peninsula has fully embraced pickleball and, these days, the game is gaining new legitimacy as dedicated pickleball courts are constructed and existing facilities are modified to allow the game to be played. This month four dedicated courts will open in the District of North Saanich.
Brenda Hardy, the founder and head of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association, is extremely grateful for that development.
“I really have to thank North Saanich for what they’ve done. Instead of having limited access to shared courts, these new courts will be available 24/7. We can’t wait,” said Hardy.
On the Peninsula, explained Hardy, the vast majority of players are older adults with about 80 per cent of her 135 members aged 6o or more.
“We have players in their eighties but, the thing is, kids love it too. My grandkids come out and play frequently. It really allows people from all generations to play a game together and just have a lot of fun.”
While the game can be competitive, that aspect of the game most often gives way to fun and socialization. Hardy’s association hosts two or three larger social events throughout the year, and a host of smaller, less formal events as well.
“We gave one of our members a surprise 60th birthday barbecue at the courts recently and about 40 people showed up. We all know one another, you see, and we’re always welcoming of new players. It’s really what pickleball is all about.
More information on pickleball and how you can join the ranks of Peninsula pickleballers can be found at seniorschoosingwisely.com.