Pickleball picks up with growing interest

Named one of the fastest growing sports in North America, pickleball recently migrated to Terrace, B.C., and is rising in popularity.

Dave Quinn and his daughter Jennifer Hidber play pickleball at the drop-in program in Thornhill.

Pickleball was named one of the fastest growing sports in North America, migrating to Terrace two years ago and now rising in popularity here.

An indoor racket sport similar to tennis, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with teams of two players rallying for points.

Dave Quinn, an organizing volunteer, said the sport is really growing in Terrace, and now runs one evening and two afternoons every week, with 14-16 people on average.

“It has really grown in the last few years,” Quinn said. “New players keep coming out… we tell everybody we can about it.

“I’ve played racket sports all my life, and I think I like this one best… It’s easy to play, you get really good exercise, and most people who try it really enjoy it,” he said.

Gino Iamele started playing last December after being invited by a friend. He says he enjoys it because “it is fun, good exercise, and good competition.”

While adults of a wide range of ages come out to play, the afternoon program in particular draws out quite a few people in the older demographic.

But age does not limit skill or diminish the level of competition, and Jennifer Hidber, 45, said that is one thing she loves about the sport.

“A young person can play with an older person and age doesn’t matter,” she said. “It can be really competitive.”

Opportunities to compete are still limited in the north, growing slowly as the sport develops in different communities.

Pickleball players from the Terrace drop-in recently formed four teams to compete in a tournament in Kitimat with those who play pickleball there.

Locals Gino Iamele and Karen Resch managed to win the tournament, and now the group is talking about hosting its own tournament in Thornhill later this year.

The 55+ BC Games provides another avenue for competition, and Dave Quinn and Val Hansen plan to  compete as a team there in September.

Drop-in pickleball started in Terrace back in 2014.

From what local athletes remember, the sport migrated here with the “snow bird” seniors who started playing it at resorts down south, and wanted to keep playing when they returned in the summers to Terrace.

Those people started asking the city recreation department to start the sport here, saying it would be popular if they put lines on the tennis court.

The city decided to paint boundary lines for pickleball on one tennis court on Halliwell, and found it was well-used.

The drop in program was then started by May McFarland, who was a regular fitness participant but has now retired and moved away.

Since then, the city continues to book the gym time in Thornhill, provide nets, rackets and pickleballs, and local volunteers organize the weekly details.

It started once a week, morphed into two and now runs Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Monday nights.

City program supervisor William Blair said the city supports the program “for the health and wellness of the community.”

“If people come forward and with an idea, and if there is someone who wants to to lead the charge, then the city is more than happy to support them in whatever way we can,” Blair said.

The start of the program is not the only thing migrating up from the south, but the Terrace interest in pickleball continues to be fed by southern excitement for the new sport.

Harry Simpson, 61, got his first exposure to pickleball in a resort in Arizona.

When he heard there was a drop-in program in Terrace, he came to try it out.

“I enjoyed it right away,” he said. “There are such varied skill levels… always things to learn.”

Simpson says he enjoys the strategy of the game, the good workout, and the fun group of people involved in the sport, but also that it is something new to play.

“It’s something different, something new. You can’t do the same thing all the time,” he laughed.