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Pickleball culture on the rise

Local group reaching out to players of "all ages and all stages"
pickelball - dan hogg
Peace Country Pickleball Association president Dan Hogg on the courts in Taylor

It's a sports that might be fairly new to the Peace Country, but it's been around since 1965.

Invented by three fathers, near Seattle, almost 60 years ago, pickleball has been described by some as tennis, badminton, and ping pong all rolled into one.

“It's a very social game,” says Peace Country Pickleball Association president Dan Hogg. “It can be competitive but we try with our new members to have them play with experienced players until they get comfortable. It only takes them a couple of weeks and their game elevates really quickly.”

Unofficially, the club is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and has grown to 75 active members and, contrary to belief, it's not just a seniors sport.

“We've got a few young players,” admits Hogg, who indicates the plan is to grow the youth component.

“You know, the 10 to 18 demographic. They're really the future of the game up here.”

The group recently held clinics to highlight the virtues of the sport.

In the last two weeks, even before the clinics, they picked up eight new members, Hogg said.

“You look at big cities like Grande Prairie, they're touting memberships of 160, 170 so that's not bad for our area in comparison,” he said.

“We'd really love them to come and see what we have here.”

And, by here, Hogg is referring to an outdoor pickleball court set up prior to the pandemic at the tennis courts in Taylor.

“The facility was not being used very often and the pickleball folks thought they'd give it a try,” reveals the district's mayor Rob Fraser. “So they put some nets and equipment in there and the tennis courts worked out really well for them.”

“They were in there often enough so they approached us asking if we could start a relationship where they could put up a little more equipment, a few more nets, some marking in the tennis area and we agreed, and it's grown bigger and bigger every year.”

While it might not have been the plan six years ago, Donna Sipe, and husband Robin, can take a great deal of the credit for its growth in popularity locally.

“For us, we were introduced to pickleball in 2016 in Arizona, fell in love with the sport,” said Donna. “Came home and there was opportunities to play here but they weren't, in our opinion, ideal.”

“There was upstairs in the curling rink which has a ceiling and the Pomeroy Sports Centre but it's inside a hockey rink which, you can imagine, has its challenges in chasing the ball.”

The association has, with the approval of the Taylor district council, been able to set up four regulation-sized pickleball courts inside the existing tennis courts.

The City of Fort St. John is also moving forward on the building of a leisure ice pad/pickleball court as part of its upgrades to Kin Park.

To find out more about the club and the sport, in general, check out the Peace Country Pickleball Association web page for all the details.