Iain Cullen board member of the Prince Rupert Racquet club on Dec. 5 shows the pickleball court, ball and racquet for the fastest growing sport in North America.

Iain Cullen board member of the Prince Rupert Racquet club on Dec. 5 shows the pickleball court, ball and racquet for the fastest growing sport in North America.

Cancelled team sports have left a pickle – try pickleball instead

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America - Iain Cullen, Prince Rupert Racquet Club

With adult team sports cancelled in B.C. at the beginning of December due to COVID-19 restrictions, sports that are more individual in gameplay may be an option. Try pickleball.

While it may have a quirky name it is not a new game, having been around in the U.S.A. since the mid-1960s with the increasing popularity surging across the continent. Snowbirds returning from the southern states brought the games back to Canada in the 1970s.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America and especially attracts seniors, Iain Cullen board member of the Prince Rupert Racquet Club and pickleball player said.

The game is a combination of other racquet sports – tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Played with a large paddle, Cullen said it is a very cost-efficient sport to play as the only outlay in cost is for a net, paddle, and balls.

The balls are perforated plastic with 26 to 42 holes, kind of like a Wiffle ball but the size of a baseball, he said. Wooden paddles are larger than a ping-pong paddle but smaller than a squash racquet. The balls are bounced instead of volleyed and points are scored on serves. Serves are always underhand. The nets across the 20 ft by 44 ft court which can be inside or out, are lower to the ground at 36 inches, as the past-time originated as a children’s backyard game.

Originally designed by U.S. congressman Joel Pritchard and some golfing buddies to entertain their children, it was pieced together from badminton and racquet sports equipment found in his garage. Unable to find a shuttlecock they improvised by using a Wiffle ball smoothing out the rules over a weekend. The origins of the name have different sources but it is believed to have come a couple of years after the design of the game and the purchase of the family dog named Pickles.

During the COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, the Prince Rupert Racquet Club underwent some renovations to the interior and squash courts. The racquetball court was converted to an ‘almost’ pickleball court by adding some tape to the court floors.

The dimension of the racquetball court is four feet shorter than a proper pickleball court which is the same size as a badminton court.

Currently, space for four pickleball courts is being scoped out by the Racquet Club Cullen said. It is popular in Terrace and Kitimat, with Terrace having some outdoor courts available to the public.

“It is a very social game,” Cullen said and can be played in singles or in doubles like tennis. “You can learn the game very quickly. With-in two days your competency can be quite high.”

“We would welcome people to come down to try the game after COVID-restrictions have been lifted,” Cullen said. “We want to hold an open house, maybe next fall, to introduce people to the sport.”

Pickleball Canada Organization, the national association of the game first came together in 2009.

“Currently, the sport of pickleball is exploding in popularity. The number of places to play has nearly doubled since 2010. There are now well over 2,000 locations on the USAPA’s Places to Play map,” Pickleball Canada’s website said.

“The spread of the sport is attributed to its popularity within community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities and retirement communities. The sport continues to grow worldwide as well with many new international clubs forming and national governing bodies now established in the USA, Canada, Spain, and India.”

K-J Millar | Journalist
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