Like many pickleball players before him, Pat Morrison’s interest in the sport was sparked by asking a simple question: “What is this?”
While sitting in a Halifax-area cafe sipping coffee with a friend eight years ago, he was told about a game that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton. .
A few days later, he plays for the first time.
“The next day I was at the sporting goods store to buy my first racquet,” said Morrison, 64, now vice-president of Pickleball Nova Scotia. “And the rest is history.”
Pickleball has been called the fastest growing sport in North America. But don’t be fooled by the original name – it’s a serious sport that a growing number of Nova Scotians are playing.
And if you’ve ever felt the satisfaction of hitting a serve or driving the whistling-like ball into the opposing team’s “kitchen” – the no-volley zone at the front of the court – you probably already know. why sports are so addicting.
Morrison said Pickleball Nova Scotia had about 200 registered members just three years ago. This has swelled to almost 900 this year.
But the actual number of players in the province is likely much higher, given that not everyone is a registered member, he said.
Dedicated pickleball courts – similar in size to a badminton court – have sprung up across the province, as communities form their own clubs and organizations.
Lines have also been painted on existing tennis courts, although Morrison concedes that the sport’s popularity exceeds that of tennis in some areas, so much so that some are definitely being converted to pickleball courts.
The craze even prompted a resident of Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, to build a regulation pickleball field in his own backyard.
Part of the appeal of the sport is its wide accessibility, Morrison said. It’s low impact, fairly simple to learn, requires minimal equipment, and is welcoming to players of all skill levels.
For this reason, the vast majority of pickleball players – sometimes called “picklepers” – are over the age of 55.
“It’s a very social game, and I think it’s really one of the things that pushes older players into the sport, as it opens up a whole new community of friends and even family,” said Morrison, adding that his organization includes people in their nineties.
“This is something that is great for the mental health and well-being of the aging population.”
While the sport of paddling is fairly new to many in the province, its history dates back to over half a century in Washington State.
After playing golf on a summer day in 1965, Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell returned home to Bainbridge Island, Wash., To find their families sitting idly by, according to USA Pickleball. .
The property had an old badminton court. Pritchard and Bell searched for badminton equipment, but could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised and started playing with ping-pong rackets and a perforated plastic ball.
Winter travelers picked up paddles in the United States
Many Nova Scotian seniors were introduced to the sport while traveling to warmer southern states during the winter months, Morrison said.
Ian MacDonald is one of those snowbirds.
He returned to the sport in Florida in 2016 and brought it back to his home community of Arisaig, Nova Scotia, a village of about 300 people nestled on the Northumberland Strait.
The community now regularly attracts over 100 anglers from across Antigonish County to its two year old outdoor pickleball park and indoor court inside the community center.
Although it is particularly popular among the region’s seniors, it is a sport that brings together people of all ages and from all walks of life, MacDonald said.
“We see grandchildren going out to play with their grandparents. It’s not at all usual,” said the 68-year-old, who retired six years ago after working as a petroleum engineer. abroad.
Pickleball arouses the interest of young people
Morrison said young Nova Scotians have shown an increasing interest in competing in tournaments across the country in recent years as they are introduced to the sport and see the potential to play at the professional level.
He agreed that it was not uncommon to see people of similar skill levels compete against each other, despite age gaps of sometimes decades.
“There are a lot of people who are going to play with family members who maybe haven’t had a lot in common in the past,” he said. “It’s a way to bring many age groups together to share stories and share good times.”
Morrison predicts that the pace of pickleball’s growth won’t slow down anytime soon.
“We are seeing both a natural growth in the sport, as well as a push created by organized clubs that is going to be drawn into a younger population over time,” said Morrison.
“It is no longer seen as just a sport for the elderly.”