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Pickleball catches on with St. James seniors

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A growing trend among active St. James and Charleswood seniors is a funny-sounding game called Pickleball.

The sport’s following has grown exponentially in the past few years. It is played both competitively and recreationally on a badminton-sized court with a racquet that looks like a large ping-pong paddle. The focus of the game is fun, fitness and friendship.

For several winters, Pickleball players have played indoors in church and community centre gyms. But when summer rolls around they would rather be outside. Until recently, though, they had trouble finding outdoor space.

Ruby Laughren, ambassador for Pickleball Canada West Winnipeg describes the problem.

"The community clubs are focused on young families. They seem to have forgotten about the baby boomers," she says. "We are the fastest growing population, and we still pay taxes."

Tennis courts can be adapted easily for Pickleball. So far, only Woodhaven Community Club and Kirkfield-Westwood Community Club have agreed to paint Pickleball lines alongside the traditional tennis lines.

"All we want is a safe place to play," Ruby says.

Pickleball players are active seniors, motivated to stay healthy and fit. They are thrilled by the increase in interest in the sport over the past few years. Two years ago, there were about a dozen people playing in the St. James-Charleswood area. Today, there are nearly 70.

Last year, Pickleball enthusiasts demonstrated the sport at the Manitoba Senior Games, and it was featured in this year’s Games in Morris. They have done demonstrations in several other Winnipeg neighbourhoods, many of which have jumped on the bandwagon. Three weeks after the demonstration, the Jonathan Toews Community Club in St. Vital has already added Pickleball lines to some of its courts, and it has put courts in two indoor facilities.

"We’re glad to finally have committed space in this area. Now maybe people won’t be tempted to go to other neighbourhoods to play," Ruby says.

"There are lots of courts around here that are underused. We use them when no one else wants to."

The Pickleball group is planning to approach other community clubs in St. James and Charleswood, and hopes they will have some luck finding more locations to support their growing sport.

"We just want to keep the sport in our own neighbourhood," Ruby says.

If you would like more information, or to try playing Pickleball, contact Ruby at rubylyle@mymts.net

Jennifer Dunsford is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia.

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