Pickleball is catching on in Red Deer

It might not be a sport sweeping the nation but it seems to be making an impact right here in Red Deer.

The game of pickleball combines the sports of tennis, badminton and ping pong.

Equipment consists of a paddle which is larger than a table tennis paddle, a whiffle ball and a net.

“You can play it single, so one on each side of the net but generally we play it as doubles,” said Val Vollnin, president of the local pickleball club in Red Deer.

The group gets together most days when the weather cooperates over at the West Park community shelter where pickle ball courts are marked out for games.

They have a pickle ball net which sits about 36 inches high and stretches 22 feet across the court.

The basic rules call for serving the ball underhand over the net and the player receiving the serve must play it on the first bounce. On the return over the net the server has to play it off the bounce as well but from there on each player can play the ball on the volley, she said.

“There is also an area called the no-volley zone which is about seven feet from the net so if you hit it into that area it must bounce first. You can’t just stand at the net and just whack it back at the person.”

According to the U.S. Pickleball Association it’s one of the fastest growing sports in North America with more that 150,000 players involved in the game worldwide.

“We formed the club (in Red Deer) last fall with about 25 members and now we’re up to about 53,” she said. “I fully expect by next summer we’ll be at 100.”

A similar group was formed in Kelowna about four years ago and their membership runs at around 400 players so there is some interest in other communities, she said.

Some Red Deer players have made the trek to Kelowna and Edmonton to participate in various pickleball tournaments as well.

Vollnin said most of the people playing pickle ball are an older demographic but any age would easily get something out of the game.

She says according to a representative within the recreation department in Red Deer, the game is being taught as part of the physical education curriculum in some schools.

“It’s just a matter of time before Red Deer gets this going. It’s easy to play and it’s something you can do to stay active and to keep you mobile.”