This “racket” is a growing concern

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Peggy Hope, left, and Anne Leung were among more than 20 pickleball players taking part in a session at the WISH Centre recently. The sport is growing in popularity as snowbirds bring it back from Florida where is is a major activity.
Peggy Hope, left, and Anne Leung were among more than 20 pickleball players taking part in a session at the WISH Centre recently. The sport is growing in popularity as snowbirds bring it back from Florida where is is a major activity.

Canadian snowbirds usually go south to escape snow shoveling and harsh winters, but some of them have become involved in a “racket” – so many in fact that they’re becoming organized.

The “racket” is actually a racquet sport called pickleball, now enjoyed by more than 100 local residents.

The sport is becoming so popular that last month some players formed the Chatham-Kent Pickleball Club in the hope of spreading the word and bringing organization to the sport.

Jay Salisbury, one of the fledgling group’s directors said the sport has quietly sprung up across the municipality.

“It’s being played at the WISH Centre, the health plex at St. Clair College, at the YMCA, in Tilbury, in Ridgetown, Blenheim and probably other places as well,” he said.

Pickleball combines elements of badmintontennis, and table tennis, and is played on a badminton sized court with a perforated ball.

Salisbury first heard of it and tried it when he was a high school tennis coach.

“Most of the people play doubles,” he said. “It has less stress on the joints but you still get the aerobic benefits.”

Mumbi Mooney, who has played in Florida for the past two winters, said at first she wasn’t interested.

“I first thought, it looks to easy, it’s for old people,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s extremely challenging, fast paced and requires good hand-eye co-coordination.”

Ron Rush, a veteran racquetball player, also learned about the sport in Florida and attended a clinic there.

“There aren’t any racquet ball courts around any more so I’m playing pickleball and enjoying it.”

Lorie Cooper said she’s played for three years in Florida.

“I love the community of it,” she said. “I use it instead of a workout, and more and more young people are getting into it.”

Mike Hope, too, was a skeptic.

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to play that’,” he said.
“A couple of years ago, my wife started playing. I still wouldn’t try it but we had a fun day in the park and I took a lesson. Now we play a couple of times a week at the WISH Centre and every day when we’re down south.”

The directors hope to begin discussing the possibility of leagues, instruction and outdoor places to play.

“You can get into the sport for less than $100,” he said. We think it’s going to grow. Once we have a better idea of what we’re able to do as a group, we might have a membership drive.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the club can contact Jay at jay.salisbury@continental-corporation.com.

Harvey Nicholson (left) and Albert Mast take a break during a session of pickelball at the WISH Centre recently.
Harvey Nicholson (left) and Albert Mast take a break during a session of pickelball at the WISH Centre recently.

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