A new sport craze steadily grows in popularity in BC.
It’s a fun, fast moving sport with a funny name…and its popularity is rising.
“It’s something anybody can play at any level and enjoy it,” says Dennis Pedersen of Kamloops, who just three years after retiring in 2014 as longtime General Manager of the Overwaitea Food Group became a national Pickleball champion.
“It’s planning, strategy and executing,” contends Pedersen noting several similarities between the sport and the business world.
A mix of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, played with a wiffle ball on a short court, Pickleball was created by a couple of dads determined to keep their kids busy on Bainbridge Island, Washington in the mid-1960s.
“We’re determined to promote the game to youth as much as we can,” says North Vancouver’s Walter Knecht, president of Pickleball BC. One of the fastest-growing sports in North America, Knecht says well over 10,000 British Columbians play the game regularly. Pickleball BC started 2019 with about 3,500 members; by the end of the year, membership is expected to eclipse 5,500.
Both Knecht and Pedersen agree that a big reason for Pickleball’s popularity is the game’s social aspect.
“I often use the word community,” says Knecht, “you seldom hear a cross word or see anger on a Pickleball court.”
For those who haven’t tried Pickleball, the game is being played in virtually every B.C. community. Several communities are incorporating new courts in their recreational plans ,and many tennis clubs are transforming underused courts into Pickleball surfaces.
“It levels us off pretty good,” says Knecht.
“You don’t have to be good in other sports to enjoy this game. The whole idea is to get a little exercise and have a good time regardless of age.”
That said, Knecht also predicts that Pickleball will soon be showcased at the Olympics.
For Pedersen and other retirees like him, Pickleball has become a passion and way of life who even search out the game while travelling – less of a challenge every year, with the sport played in at least 20 countries.
Pedersen is quite active in growing Pickleball in Kamloops:
“It’s self-accomplishment which is what you get in business. You meet people, you enjoy socializing with people and really, that was the grocery business that I was in. It was a people business” said Pedersen just prior to playing a game in a recent Kamloops Pickleball tournament.
While hardcore tennis players may consider Pickleball something of a “geezer” sport, nothing could be further from the truth. “Its a rapid game,” says Knecht who notes a recently cut lip while playing the game. Nobody wants to get hurt, but the odd injury is outweighed by health benefits according to a report from Mueller Sports Medicine, citing physical and mental advantages to staying active.
Be warned: to avoid getting pickled, you’ll need to master “dinking” in the kitchen. I’ll leave that particular research up to you.
Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary.