Ponoka’s tennis courts were busy Saturday, June 18 but not with tennis players. Rather it was a clinic highlighting the finer points of a new sport called pickleball.
Pickleball is a combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis, which has seen some steady growth over the years, particularly with seniors. In Ponoka a group of players have been active at it at the tennis courts that have modified pickleball lines drawn on each one.
No other special equipment is needed except for a ball similar to a wiffle ball and solid paddles made of wood or composite materials.
Teaching the clinic was Val Vollmin, who is with a league in Red Deer. She has been playing the sport since 2010 where she discovered it in Arizona. Trying to host games in Alberta earlier was difficult as the only place where it was hosted was in Kelowna, B.C., she explained.
Now it’s everywhere.
“Everybody can play it. It’s just a fun game for everybody,” said Vollman.
The lines, which are shorter than tennis court boundaries, are easy to setup and the game uses the same tennis nets. At first playing the game was something to stay active, says Vollman, but now it has reached a new level of competitiveness.
At the time that the Red Deer club started up, there were about 25 athletes. Now there are about 130 active members.
“The City (of Red Deer) has just given us a new facility at the Pines. So we’ve got nine courts there,” said Vollman.
While the Red Deer courts are not quite as smooth as Ponoka’s surface, it does offer an opportunity to be active and play a fun game, said Vollman.
Growth is continuous. A new tournament is being set up in August at Red Deer.
“We’ve made a lot of friends…It’s almost like a family reunion,” she added.
Pickleball organizers pushing to be a recognized sport
There are 2,500 members with Pickleball Canada and Vollman is the president of the association who is pushing to make Pickleball a recognized sport in Canada.
To do that there needs to be 5,000 people signed up with the association. Vollman said she is excited for the futuer as they continue to see a growing number of active members.