Pickleball keeping players active, in North Bay, Ontario

North Bay club growing in leaps and bounds

PJ Wilson

Published on: June 24, 2019

Doreen Murray proudly wears a T-shirt that says Limited Edition 1933.

“I’m having a wonderful time,” she says as she walks off the court competing in the 70+ age level at the Ontario Pickleball Championship.

She’s competing with her teammate Barb Brown, despite wearing a knee brace – the first time she’s ever worn one – from an injury earlier in the week.

“I love to be active,” Murray, cheered on by her son and daughter-in-law, says. “This is a great sport.”

Pickleball is a relatively new event in North Bay. The league has only been around for a few years, but it’s attracted more than 130 members.

So far.

Murray and Brown, from the Bracebridge area, took it up for “something to do” during the long, cold winter months.

“We’ve always enjoyed racquet sports, ever since we were kids,” Murray says.

“This is one of those things that has evolved.”

It’s also something she believes can be a good activity for everyone, whether it’s the 20-somethings who are on one of the courts or people her own age.

“I wish more seniors would stay active. We have a great time and meet the nicest people.”

She admits that when she was watching some of the younger competitors on the court Friday night, “I wished I had half their energy.”

But she’s no slouch on the court, dashing to return the ball and smashing a few shots over the net.

“Tennis was my main game,” Brown says.

She says that in the Bracebridge area there are five pickleball courts “and they’re always full.

“It’s a lot of fun.”

There were more than 160 competitors from across the province at the event at the Robert J. Surtees Athletic Centre at Nipissing University, with a healthy contingent from Northern Ontario, according to tournament director John Halliday.

“That’s a really nice number including a lot who would not normally go to a tournament. For many, it’s their first time at a tournament.”

About a quarter of the competitors were from Northern Ontario, he says.

Many of those competing have been involved in racquet sports over the years, Halliday says, and that’s the perfect background.

“If you play tennis, badminton or table tennis when you’re younger, it translates very well” into pickleball, he says.

One of the offshoots of the tournament – the first held in North Bay – is, he hopes, an increased awareness of the sport and, hopefully, more support locally.

“There’s really a growing interest in it,” he says.

The North Bay club, although only about three years old, has “grown by leaps and bounds.”

Now, though, “we have to get a proper facility.”

The league plays in local schools, at the YMCA and at Canadore College, but Halliday believes a “purpose-built” facility will do wonders for the city’s seniors.

“We do a lot for the young” in North Bay, he says, and the city “should look at what it can do for older people.”

The game is played on a badminton-size court, using the same outside lines. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net.

“This tournament is only going to enhance interest in the sport,” Dave Saad, one of the organizers of the tournament, says.

He noted that a lot of the volunteers who play pickleball were able to get a look at some of the higher calibre players in Ontario Friday night, and will be able to take what they saw and incorporate it in their own game.

He also points to the benefits the sport offers.

“Someone who has been competing in sports for their whole life will be able to continue with this,” he says. “It’s a good workout, it’s competitive . . . and it gets older people more active.”

At the other end of the age scale are Ellen Kawamoto and Dimitry Philipchenko, a young couple who are relative newcomers to the sport.

“I love the teamwork,” Philipchenko says. “I love how you are so dependent not just on yourself but on your partner.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Kawamoto says. “It’s friendly. You can compete on the court, but off the court it’s so friendly.”

She says she’s from “a pickleball family” and was introduced to the sport by her parents.

 

Content retrieved from: https://www.nugget.ca/news/local-news/pickleball-keeping-players-active-2.

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