Game on: popularity of pickleball spreads throughout Lanark County

Posted on: October 26, 2016

By Dianne Pinder-Moss
dianne@pdgmedia.ca

Laurie Bennett openly acknowledges that she has never been one to play team sports. That all changed, however, in January when the Almonte resident was introduced to pickleball.
She started playing at the invitation of friends and enjoyed the sport so much that, along with playing in Almonte, she is now also travelling to Perth one morning a week.Bennett is part of a growing number of local people taking up pickleball, which is described as a combination of table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Its popularity is such that here in Lanark County, people can now play the sport in Almonte, Carleton

Bennett is part of a growing number of local people taking up pickleball, which is described as a combination of table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Its popularity is such that here in Lanark County, people can now play the sport in Almonte, Carleton Place and Perth.“Myself and a few other people got experience in the southern U.S. playing it,” says Perth resident Don MacKenzie, noting that the sport is very popular in Florida and California.

“Myself and a few other people got experience in the southern U.S. playing it,” says Perth resident Don MacKenzie, noting that the sport is very popular in Florida and California.

Locally, pickleball had its beginnings in Carleton Place in 2012. Linda Pond, who is currently convening the sport in Carleton Place credits snowbirds Walter and Carolyn Renwick for being “mainly responsible for bringing pickleball to CP.”

“They convinced Heritage Fitness to build it and they will come,” she says of the outdoor pickleball courts that were constructed at the Heritage Community Fitness Centre.

According to Pond, a core group of people who were introduced to pickleball shortly after it arrived in Carleton Place still play on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings there. This year there is also a Thursday evening drop-in from 5:30 p.m. until dark where non-members of the fitness centre can play for $3.

As the local ambassador for the Canadian Pickleball Association, Pond has also been heavily involved in the Almonte program, which is being offered by the Mills Community Support Corporation (MCSC). In fact, Jan Watson, health and wellness program co-ordinator for MCSC, refers to Pond as “my right hand person.”

“I’d like to offer thanks to Linda for all she has done to help and promote [pickleball],” Watson says.

Pickleball started up in the summer of 2015 in Almonte on the old basketball courts at Gemmill Park. The MCSC paid to install lines on three courts with the Town of Mississippi Mills funding the repairs to cracks in the courts.

Following up on the success of its pickleball program in the summer months, the MCSC continued to offer the sport indoors during the winter on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at Naismith Elementary School. Some nights, upwards of 15 people came out to play, not only from Mississippi Mills but Carleton Place, Carp and Perth. This summer, players were back on the courts at Gemmill Park on Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The cost is $2 per session.

Watson believes pickleball fits the mission of MCSC. That is, “keeping people healthy and active, primarily seniors, in their community.”

About half a dozen Perth residents took part in the Almonte winter league so MacKenzie decided to bring the sport to Perth. The Town of Perth made available its two public tennis courts and volunteers layed out and painted the yellow lines.

“A pickleball court is one-third or one-quarter the size of a tennis court,” MacKenzie explains. “It is basically a badminton court.”

At the Perth courts, there is regular drop-in play four days a week: Monday at 8 a.m., Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m., and Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“This is an informal activity with no membership fee,” MacKenzie stresses. “Beginners are always welcome at the regular drop in times.”

While many of those taking up the sport are 50 or older, it is attracting other ages as well. MacKenzie says a few students in the heritage masonry program at the Perth campus of Algonquin College are coming out to play on Thursday evenings.

Pond has brought pickleball to Carleton Place High School several times “and the kids seemed to love it.

“Once people try it, they get addicted,” she said. “However, I think the name throws people off.”
Part of the appeal of pickleball is that all you need to participate is a pair of sneakers. Paddles and balls are usually provided, although regular players will often purchase their own paddles.

The sport is also easy to learn. “It’s one of the few sports you can show up and, within half an hour, you are returning shots and playing at a reasonable level,” MacKenzie points out.

Anyone interested in becoming part of Perth’s Pickleball Community is invited to email perthspickleball@gmail.com. Pond is the contact for Carleton Place and can be reached at Linda.pond@gmail.com or by phone at 613-253-0240. For Almonte, you can contact either Pond or Watson at 613-256-1031 or jwatson@themills.on.ca.Ask Pond what she loves about pickleball and she has a list of things. In addition to being inexpensive to play and the skills easy to learn and master, she says the sport is fun, offers social activity with other “pickleball-aholics” and is “a terrific workout.”

Ask Pond what she loves about pickleball and she has a list of things. In addition to being inexpensive to play and the skills easy to learn and master, she says the sport is fun, offers social activity with other “pickleball-aholics” and is “a terrific workout.”

Photo (main image) by Dianne Pinder-Moss: Dave Reesor returns a serve while Bob Saunders looks on during a recent game of pickleball at the Conlon Farm Recreation Complex in Perth.

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Photo by Dianne Pinder-Moss: Out for a game of pickleball on a recent Wednesday at the Conlon Farm Recreation Complex in Perth were front row left to right: Don MacKenzie, Eric Besch, Jim Little, Lois Mowat and Kim MacKenzie: Back row: Bob Saunders, Marilyn LaBelle, Dave Reesor, Gerry Leduc, John Bickerton, Linda Bickerton and John Low.