Pickleball in Edmonton picks up pandemic participants

·2 min read
Members of the Parkland Pickleheads squaring off in a doubles match. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)
Members of the Parkland Pickleheads squaring off in a doubles match. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC - image credit)

Around since the 1960s, the friendly net sport of pickleball has exploded in popularity in Edmonton during the pandemic.

The game is a mash-up of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong. It can be played by singles or in pairs, and either indoors or outside.

In Spruce Grove, about 30 kilometres west of Edmonton, the Parkland Pickleheads' membership has grown by 30 per cent since the start of the pandemic, according to the Pickleheads president, Garand Jones.

"It's addictive, basically just the aspect that there's the physical exercise," Jones said.

"But more so, there is the mental aspect and the socializing that you get with other people. It's a great opportunity to meet new people and develop friendships."

The club is in the process of expanding their courts to keep up with the demand.

According to Pickleball Canada, Alberta has more than 4,000 members, and nationally there are more than 24,000 members.

Jones attributes the numbers to the accessibility of the sport.

"In our particular club, we have anybody from 10 years of age, up to 83 years of age playing," Jones said.

"Basically, all you need is some sort of court shoes and a paddle, and paddles can range anywhere from $40 up to $300, depending on how elaborate of a paddle you want."

Rachelle Brown has been playing for just a year, and at 33 she said she is considered one of the young bucks on the court.

"I wanted to play, but everyone kept telling me it was an old person's game, so I never did it," Brown said.

"And then finally, I got to the point where I just wanted to try it. So I went and did a beginner class and absolutely fell in love with it."

Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC
Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC

She now plays a couple of times a week, and said on the court, age doesn't matter.

"Although there might be people a lot older than me here, it's very humbling to lose against them because this game takes a lot of skill that people aren't aware of."

John Oldham started playing two years ago.

The 75-year-old transitioned from tennis and now plays two to three times a week.

"There are some things I do in tennis that you can't do here, and so you have to kind of wean those tennis shots out of your wrist and your arm when you begin to play pickleball," Oldham said.

"It takes a little while to adjust to the changes in terms of style. But it's a great sport."

Brown now thinks of her fellow Pickleheads as a second family and has managed to recruit new players just by talking about her new passion.

"It's exciting to know that when you talk about it to people, they see your excitement and then they want to come and play."

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