It wasn’t too long ago that Pickleball was considered a retiree’s sport of choice. My father-in-law had played in his community centre sang its praises. Not only did the game keep him moving it was also very social. Then, within recent years it gained momentum and took the recreational sports world by surprise…or not.
I had learned that a friend of mine in California who’s probably ten years younger had turned pro. Wait, what? She’s become one of the nation’s biggest players and has even landed on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. With her enthusiasm and energy I was intrigued.
According to a recent survey conducted in January 2023 by Pickleball Canada there are now over 1.37 million individual Canadians that have picked up the sport. And between 2022 to 2023 the sport showed an almost 50% increase in the number of Canadian women playing Pickleball. Not only the that, the growth in numbers is coming from younger adults between the ages of 18 to 34 (source: Pickleball Canada).
In the same survey, overall Canadians say they are still playing Pickleball because it’s fun, it’s social, and for its health and fitness benefits. Interestingly though, there was a significant increase in the number of Canadians playing pickleball for the competition within the game (27% in January 2023, compared to just 18% in January 2022). That growth in competitive spirit on the courts was all attributable to women, for whom there was a 170% increase in competition being a key driver for playing pickleball.
This past summer our city turned up at converted spaces everywhere. Even an outdoor bar scene in the core of the entertainment district installed a couple of Pickleball courts.
When I mentioned to my friends that I finally had the time and opportunity to try for myself a few were surprised that I hadn’t already. But here was my time.
When Skechers announced their new technical line of shoes designed specifically for Pickleball players they had invited me to an afternoon clinic to learn from members of the Toronto United Pickleball Club.
I was inspired. Chatting with them and witnessing their camaraderie was pretty special. Even my friend in the US has played with a few members from this club.
At the clinic, we first learned a bit the lingo. Someone had mentioned to think of the sport as a cross between Ping Pong and Tennis. I can see that. “Dinking” is a soft shot that arcs over the net and falls into the opposing non-volley zone. “Kitchen” is the section closest to the net and where you want to stay out of. You can learn more of the terminology here.
I quickly learned that it wasn’t about how hard you hit the ball but how much control you have in giving it the right finesse. It’s also fun but challenging enough that it won’t frustrate the heck out of you.
Shoes are important and Skechers takes it seriously. They have to be as they the shoe brand is now the official sponsors for elite athletes Tyson McGuffin and Canadian Catherine Parenteau. The brand was also announced as the Official Footwear Sponsor for the Pickleball Canada National Championship this past year that saw over 1000 players ranging from ages 16 to 75.
The Toronto United Pickleball Club including Mark & Daniel Gottfried, Ricky Liorti, and Carolina Hack put them through the test as true athletes along side newbies like me. The importance, they stressed, was the traction on the court and the arch support. They also need to be lightweight and be responsive in cushioning during movement. Skechers take this all seriously and has created an entire line for both men and women.
Within the a couple hours in this clinic I was hooked. Not only did I learn the basics from the pros but also had a lot of fun doing so. I even managed to land on a television segment with the players (I’m the one in the back smiling ear to ear).
Pickleball is my new jam and I once I get over the holiday hurdle I’ll be looking into opportunities to continue this journey. Wondering where you can start? I would recommend heading to the Pickleball Canada website to find the nearest club to you.
Thanks Skechers and Toronto United Pickleball Club for having me on the courts! Happy to be told to stay out of this kitchen for once!