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Pickleballers looking to grow game in Guelph

Pickleball is said to be the fastest growing sport in North America, but a newly-formed association in Guelph said opportunities to play are scarce
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Members of the Guelph Wellington Seniors Association play pickleball at the West End Community Centre. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday file photo

It's the fastest growing sport in North America and a Guelph association is fighting to get more access to courts to play pickleball.

The Pickleball Guelph Association was founded in May for this very reason.

"We're trying to raise interest," said Janice Tapon with the association.

"Some people might think 'oh pickleball is just something that old people like me play' … but we also want to expose younger people to the game as well, to increase participation because it's such a great sport."

It doesn't take much to pick it up. A court looks similar to a badminton court, and it's played using wooden or plastic paddles and wiffle balls.

It was first played in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Pickleball Canada said it's not known when the game specifically moved to this side of the border, but noted snowbirds would often come back to Canada in the 1970's wanting to play.

That seems to be the common issue in Guelph at this stage, trying to find places to play.

In the summer, even with tennis courts across the city lined with pickleball lines, Tapon said tennis players want to use the courts as well.

"Sometimes, you have to wait," the 77 year old said, adding while there are some winter options, they are "few and far between."

For her part, Tapon picked up the sport three years ago and had to bide her time on the list to play as a member of the Guelph Wellington Seniors Association.

"It took over a year to get on that list, because there's usually about 90 people waiting to be admitted to that group," she said. "And that's where I play now."

As a member, she can only play on Tuesday mornings or Friday afternoons, as that group balances trying to give everyone, at multiple skill levels, playing time.

But where does the local pickleball association go from here?

"There have been talks with city hall, and evidently the mayor's now on board," Tapon said. "He's become informed of the growing need. But it's going to take a couple of years before that comes to fruition."

At the moment, the association is looking at renting high school gyms. She said that would increase availability in the winter time, and possibly having three separate pickleball games going at once.

"Ideally, our goal is to have pickleball-only courts," she said. "At the moment, we succeeded in getting pickleball lines on all of the tennis courts."

The association is also looking at efforts to grow the game to the younger demographic, including the introduction of clinics, one being held Sept. 24, which has been sold out.

"It's really good, a nice sport for older people," Tapon said. "But younger people can have a blast."

More clinics are expected in the future, and you're encouraged to visit the Pickleball Guelph Association website to learn more about the sport, including a link to sign up as a member.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay whose career has taken him through a number of spots across Ontario. He spent nearly a decade in the radio news industry in North Bay, Timmins and Waterloo Region
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