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Pickleball grows in popularity in Smithers, British Columbia

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America especially among participants over the age of 50. (Tom Best photo)

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It all started in the mid-1960’s when a couple of avid badminton players couldn’t find a shuttlecock. The best they could do was a wiffleball and they found some plywood paddles they could use. The net was lowered on the badminton doubles court and the game of Pickleball got its start.

According to more than one source, the game is now the fastest growing sport in North America. It has made it’s appearance here in Smithers and looks to become as popular here as it is in those warmer climes where the snowbirds have been introduced to the game.

With the high general activity level in the local area, it will probably become another healthy option now that the Smithers recreation department has come up with a place to play. The new arena would probably lay dormant for a long period of time when the ice sports are not active, but four courts have been laid out on the floor and a group that had been looking for better facilities now has a home.

According to Laura Aspenlind of the town of Smithers, the goal is to utilize space that would otherwise be empty. Last Wednesday, there was an introductory session and all of the courts were occupied by enthusiastic players while others waited for a chance to play.

The equipment is simple and the game is relatively easy to learn compared to many other racquet sports such as tennis. Enthusiast Harold Reedy says that in many communities where the game is popular down south, basketball and tennis courts are being converted for use as pickleball facilities.

Reedy was introduced to the game about 10 years ago in Arizona. With the smaller court and lower net, the game requires less skill and has become very popular with the over 50 crowd.

Aspenlind says that they hope to provide access on a Monday to Friday basis from mid April to mid July when in all likelihood the ice will go back in.

“We are still working on logistics but we hope to have it available from mid July to mid September as well,” she said.

At this time, the schedule is from 6-8:00 Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening but also morning and early afternoon time should become available as well.

“Anyone can play this game. It’s played doubles so it’s not that vigorous. There are a lot of seniors who play,” said Reedy. “If you played ping pong in your younger days, you should enjoy the game quite a bit.”

The equipment needed for the game is quite simple and in fact the town is providing the paddles which are similar to those used in table tennis. “Once most people get into it, they’ll probably buy their own paddle,” he said. There are several outlets in town which Reedy felt had such paddles available.

Of course, the inevitable question is “How did the game get it’s name?” Legend has it that it was named after the originator’s family dog but in reality, it was the dog, which was not on the scene until the game had been in existence for a number of years, which was named after the game.

A pickle boat in rowing is crewed by rowers who have not been selected for faster boats.

Aspenlind said that while the game appears to be most popular with the more mature set, the goals is to have the game available for any from 15-100 to come out and play. “I enjoy it and highly recommend it,” she said.


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