Throughout North America the sport of pickleball is becoming increasingly popular, and no one knows this better than the Penticton Pickleball Club.
Opening three short years ago, the club currently has 180 members and sees about 50 people per day using the courts. The club offers a variety of drop-in competitive and non-competitive sessions for all skill levels.
Club president Mark Tamblyn said while the current membership age demographic is 55-plus, they are seeing younger players taking up the sport.
“There’s a lot of interest coming from the lower levels. So we’re going to open up what’s called an under-40 league next year,” said Tamblyn.
The club has even worked with Princess Margaret Secondary School students, teaching the youths everything there is to know about pickleball.
The club had pickleball pro Tyson McGuffin run a clinic for the members from Sept. 17 -19. McGuffin, originally from Lake Chelan, Wash., is ranked second in the world for pickleball singles as well as doubles.
“I started playing about three years ago at the local YMCA. I grew up as a tennis player,” said McGuffin “I fell in love with the community feel and the camaraderie. It was a fresh breath from tennis, which can be pretty cliquey.”
McGuffin, sponsored by Selkirk Sports, has won two grand slams in singles and one grand slam in doubles in 2018 alone. Now he travels full-time hosting clinics out of local pickleball clubs, helping players improve their techniques and skill level.
He has also witnessed an increase in interest around the sport over the last few years, and not just with seniors.
“I think why it’s so popular in the older demographic because we see all these racket sport players come in and pickleball is so much easier on your body. It has a sense of community feel and pickleball players are very welcoming with new people coming in,” said McGuffin. “On the younger demographic side I think the game is starting to come around because it’s inexpensive, it’s easy to play, it’s fun, it’s social.”
This sport is one that seemingly caters to all. Even those with limiting medical conditions have still found ways to play and be active.
“It’s healthy. I’ve had a quadruple bypass, a new hip four months ago and the exercise is unbelievable,” said Gary Gierlich, one club member who hopes to hold a tournament in the next year for fellow members with cardiac issues. “(This sport) is just addictive and it’s healthy, it’s crazy.”
The club plans to continue bringing pros in to work with its members each year, especially since the clinics they’ve been able to hold have helped increase their players’ skill levels.
“What I have seen happening with the club over the last few years is that we’ve gone from what they call a 3.5 level where people are just hitting (the ball) in the air back and forth, and now we’re starting to drop the ball and play a softer game,” said Tamblyn.
This growing interest in the pickleball club comes as the city is developing plans for how to use the space the courts are located at Robinson Property, home to the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre. City hall is starting to develop a plan for the property to take into account for all the various current and future uses of the parkland.
Tamblyn is confident that allowing the club to expand and build more courts is the right use for a portion of the space.
“(The existing) tour courts aren’t enough … We have been working with the horseshoe club and setting up a plan. The district is finalizing what’s going to happen in this area and once the plans are set, they will go to the community and ask what input they want to have,” said Tamblyn.
Tamblyn said the club and its members are prepared to put forward $50,000 to $60,000 towards new courts but the club also hopes the city will step up with funding for this as well. They also hope to eventually open a teaching facility that the community and local schools will be able to access.
“We have to have more courts to accommodate the interest (we’ve had),” said Tamblyn. “On our busiest day, we’ve had 42 people wanting to play on four courts.”
The outdoor pickleball season will wrap up at the end of September, while the indoor season will continue running throughout the winter. For more information about the Penticton Pickleball Club, visit pentictonpickleball.blogspot.com.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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