by Spencer Kemp
Journalist Local Journalism Initiative
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many chose new hobbies or turned to old ones to keep themselves occupied after many places of entertainment, such as sports, were restricted and closed.
For some, these hobbies were taken over years ago and they were missed during pandemic restrictions.
Moosomin resident Bill Thorn picked up pickleball about four years ago while visiting friends in Arizona, and at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when restrictions limited entertainment, pickleball was around. something Thorn said he could turn to.
âI was in Arizona awhile ago and a few of my friends were playing pickleball, so I played there a bit there and really enjoyed the game. It’s good physical training,â it’s good for your reflexes, you can sweat lightly and it takes a lot of movement. It really is good conditioning. It’s one of those things that is mixed and men and women can play the game and it doesn’t make a big difference whether you play men or women, âThorn said.
“Most of us who play are around 65 and over and it’s a great game for our age group.”
Pickleball was first invented in the 1960s, when boredom led three families to pair up some of their favorite games, using a badminton net, table tennis rackets, and a wiffle ball.
The sport was named after the family dog, Pickle, who stole the Wiffle ball while the family played, and the sport of pickleball was invented.
Pickleball uses what looks like oversized table tennis rackets to bounce a Wiffle ball off a shortened net.
The sport is now played on a badminton-sized court with a net slightly shorter than a regular tennis net, and its family-friendly rules make the sport easily accessible to people of all ages.
While pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, Thorn says his group had to stop playing following COVID-19 guidelines that limited group play in December.
âWe played as long as we could and when we were told we couldn’t play we had to stop playing. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to play since the restrictions were put in place. I was quite impressed, however, that in much of the world pickleball developed during the pandemic, but unfortunately in Saskatchewan we have chosen not to allow the sport to be played, âThorn said.
He says that before the restrictions prevented his group from playing together, he saw more young people start playing this unique sport.
Thorn says the sport is seen as a âboomerâ sport, but has since started to see increasing popularity with younger players.
âWe had a pretty good group there. Since the pandemic struck, most of it no longer exists. But we have had increasing numbers. I think there has been interest in a younger audience now, âThorn said.
âSome young people were starting to get started. I think this group will grow once we can get back to it, thoroughly. And I hope we can get back to it soon enough.
While local group Moosomin plays on a casual level, Thorn notes that major centers host tournaments and competitions, which Thorn says he hopes to see rural communities start to do so as well.
âWe play just for fun here, but in the big centers there are competitions and tournaments and so on. No member of the band I play with regularly participated. But I think there might be a few little challenges in different communities, like having a half dozen Carlyle or Rocanville and meeting you for a day and playing against each other. I’m not saying it will happen, but I hope it will.
Thorn reiterates that pickleball is an easy sport to learn and encourages people to give it a try.
He says most players can figure out the game after just a few short turns.
âIt’s a great sport. It’s something we’ve had a lot of fun playing over the past four or five years. It’s good for conditioning and it’s relatively easy. After you’ve played the game half a dozen times, the skill level doesn’t really change much. You can comfortably play with people who have been playing for two to three years. You will feel great about it. It’s a really easy game to play, âThorn said.