Thanks to a dedicated group of seniors, the fastest growing sport in North America is already being played here in the South Cariboo.
Pickleball participant and former Lac la Hache Deputy Fire Chief Larry Pawloski has been playing with the club for five years.
“This sport is three sports,” he explained. “Ping pong, tennis, and badminton.”
Pickleball is actually the fastest growing sport in North America, and the Lac la Hache Pickleball club hopes to get some new people involved and spread the word about their presence in the area.
Ted Scott has been playing in Lac la Hache for over two years.
“Bob told me about it. He goes to our little church over here and that’s where I met him over there and he said ‘hey come try out this pickleball thing’.”
The group call themselves the Lac la Hache Pickleball Club, but the group’s co-leader, Bob Hansen, said that technically the group is just drop-in and there is no real club.
“This arena is run by the Lac la Hache Community Club,” he explained. “So it’s owned by the citizens. We charge a drop-in fee of $3.50 and we contribute back into the Community Club and some of the funds go to balls and nets and the equipment we need.”
Hansen said the group has a mailing list of 35 to 40 people, but on average, usually a dozen or more folks show up to play. The club meets to play at the Rolf Zeiz Memorial Arena on Sundays at 1 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
Most people have their own equipment, but the club has half a dozen paddles for new members and drop-in players to use.
Hansen said that pickleball is probably most similar to tennis, but the court is much smaller. The net is similar and there is a service line for serving diagonally. What makes pickleball unique, said Bob, is that you have to let the serve bounce and you have to let the return serve bounce, too. After that, the play is open.
“They developed the bouncing rules to promote rallies,” he explained, noting that plywood paddles were once used, but there are now composite paddles widely available in sporting goods stores.
Pickleball games go up to 11 points and teams of doubles or individuals must win their game by two points. There is also a no-volley zone between the net and serving line, which is called “the kitchen”.
“In the spirit of social activity, you can’t come into the kitchen and hit one out of the air,” explained Hansen. “You have to wait and hit in here [behind the serving line] or wait to let it bounce, then hit it.”
Hansen said seniors enjoy the sport so much because it’s mostly underhand play; there isn’t a lot of overhand movement required, which makes it easier for anyone who may have shoulder issues.
Hansen discovered pickleball in Arizona and said that the snowbirds brought it back to Canada.
“You know retirees, people who go down to winter in California and Florida.”
When Hansen visits the Phoenix area, he plays pickleball every day for three or four months. He explained that most of the seniors who participate in the club engage in a similar winter routine: “When you go down there for three months then you’re home for nine months, you want to play.”
The “snowbirds” have brought pickleball to the South Cariboo so that everyone can enjoy it, but Hansen said that in the United States, the sport has entered universities and high schools as it picks up popularity.
Pawloski said the sport is now continent-wide and still expanding. It can be a social game, he added, but he personally comes out to play and win.
For the seniors who participate locally, Hansen said it’s a great opportunity for physical activity: “Anybody can come out at any time.”
Some players come all the way from Green Lake to participate, while others travel from Buffalo Creek or Horse Lake.
The only real challenge at their age, he admitted, is trying to remember to keep score.