Players missed pickleball during restrictions

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by Spencer Kemp

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many picked up new hobbies or turned to old ones to keep themselves busy after many venues of entertainment, such as sports, being restricted and shut down.

For some, these hobbies were picked up years ago, and they were missed during the pandemic restrictions

Moosomin resident Bill Thorn picked up pickleball around four years ago when visiting friends in Arizona, and off the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions limited entertainment, pickleball was something Thorn says he could turn to.

“I was down in Arizona a while ago and a couple of my friends played pickleball, so I played a little bit of it down there and I really enjoyed the game. It’s a good physical workout, it’s good for your reflexes, you can work up a light sweat, and it takes a lot of motion. It’s really good conditioning. It’s one of those things that’s co-ed and both men and women can play the game and it doesn’t change much whether you’re playing men or women,” Thorn said.

“Most of us that are playing are around 65 and up and it’s a great game for our age bracket.”

Pickleball was first invented in the 1960’s when boredom led three families to mesh some of their favourite games together, using a badminton net, table tennis racquets, and a Wiffle ball.

The sport was named after the family dog, Pickle who would steal the Wiffle ball while the family played, and the sport of pickleball was invented.

Pickleball uses what looks like oversized table tennis racquets to bounce a Wiffle ball over a shortened net.

The sport is now played on a badminton-sized court with a net slightly shorter than a regular tennis net, and its family-friendly rules make the sport easily accessible to people of all ages.

While pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada, Thorn says his group had to quit playing following COVID-19 guidelines that restricted group play in December.

“We played as long as we could and when we were told we couldn’t play, we had to quit playing. It’s been some time since we’ve been able to play since the restrictions went in place. I was quite impressed, however, that throughout much of the world pickleball has grown during the pandemic, but unfortunately in Saskatchewan, we chose not to allow that sport to be played,” Thorn said.

He says that before the restrictions prevented his group from playing together he saw more younger people begin picking up the unique sport.

Thorn says that the sport is perceived as a ‘Boomer’ sport but has since begun to see increased popularity with younger players.

“We had a pretty good group there. Since the pandemic hit, it’s non-existent anymore for the most part. But we did have growing numbers. I think there has been an interest in a younger audience now,” Thorn stated.

“Some younger people were starting to get into it. I think that group will grow once we can get back into it, full-bore. And I hope that we can get back to that relatively quickly.”

While the local Moosomin group plays on a casual level, Thorn notes that larger centres do host tournaments and competitions, something Thorn says he hopes to see rural communities begin doing as well.

“We just play for fun here, but in the bigger centres there are competitions and there are tournaments and so forth. None in the group that I play with regularly have participated in it. But I think there might be some little challenges in different communities, like having half a dozen from Carlyle or Rocanville and you meet for a day and play against each other. I’m not saying this will happen, but I hope it does.”

Thorn reiterates that pickleball is a sport that is easy to pick up on and encourages people to give it a try.

He says that most players can get an understanding of the game after only a few brief rounds.

“It’s a great sport. It’s something that we’ve had a lot of fun playing over the past four or five years. It’s good for conditioning and it’s relatively easy. Once you’ve played the game half a dozen times the skill level doesn’t really change much. You can play comfortably with people who have played for two to three years. You’ll feel just fine about it. It’s a real easy game to catch on to,” Thorn said.

Spencer Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator

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