June 24th, 2024

Pickleball starting to cause a racket

By Dale Woodard on August 21, 2021.

Southern Alberta is producing its share of pickleball medallists.

Given the upcoming renovations to the pickleball courts on the north side that are coming thanks to approval for a Capital Improvement Project from the City of Lethbridge, the timing couldn’t be better.

And don’t suggest it’s just a sport for older, retired people, either.

In fact, it was the younger demographic that hit the podium recently as the mixed doubles tandem of Stacey and Tyler Keraiff captured gold at the Canadian Championship in the 3.0 35-49 mixed doubles age group earlier this month in Red Deer.

At provincials in Spruce Grove, Coaldale’s Richard and Val Boras won provincials in the 3.0 60-plus mixed division.

In Medicine Hat, the tandem of Trent Rougeau and Logan Siebert took home silver, while in the U.S. Klaus Witzke – who is also the president of the Lethbridge Pickleball Club – won silver at the Crown of the Continent Tournament in Big Fork, Montana playing alongside Tom Reay.

“Pickleball is number rating,” said Witzke, adding 1.5 to 2 is beginners, 3 to 3.5 is intermediate and the better players are four and above.

With the slew of local medals comes a youth movement in the sport.

“Trent and Logan are both in their early-30s,” said Witzke.

“A lot of people think our sport is more for retired people, but you can see with the age groups coming through now that it’s a sport that can be played by the whole family. It’s one we’re trying to promote in southern Alberta and as the Lethbridge Pickleball Club. We give lessons and we’re going to hold more beginner clinics if people want to get ahold us.”

New members will be joining at the right time with the Lethbridge Pickleball Club receiving approval for a $650,000 CIP from the City to go toward the courts at Legacy Park.

“There are six courts right now at Legacy Park in north Lethbridge,” said Witzke.

“Those six courts are going to be re-purposed. So what they’re going to do is give us windscreens and put the proper surfacing down. There’s a painted surface that goes on there that is more of a rubber-ized type of surface. They’re also going to build six additional courts. By next summer we’re going to have 12 regulation-style courts that you can hold tournaments on and possibly provincials and things like that. There are four courts in Coaldale that have the windscreen and the plexi-pave surface.”

Pickleball is half of a tennis court, said Witzke.

“We play with paddles and wiffle balls, balls with holes in them.

“We’re holding clinics right now on all skill levels. It’s not that expensive to join the pickleball club. Last year we only charged $15 and part of that money goes to Pickleball Alberta and Canada (for insurance purposes).”

Those interested in joining can email Witzke at president@lethbridgepickleballclub.ca or visit the Lethbridge Pickleball Club’s website.

“Once you join the pickleball club you can have access the court times,” said Witzke.

“In the wintertime we play indoors and most of us play at the Seniors Centre. The Lethbridge Seniors Centre has six courts. Usually in October we transition as it gets colder. Last year, people played outdoor in December. You just bundle up a little bit more.”

Witzke said the club will probably hold clinics in the winter time as well.

“The only way to grow your sport is to do a youth movement. If anybody is interested, we would be more than willing to help them learn the sport and give them lessons. We have lots of people who are more than willing to assist other people.”

Witzke said the Lethbridge Pickleball Club and the Coaldale Club have over 100 members, though some of those are shared.

“But it’s exploding. It’s not just a retired game, all ages are taking part,” he said.

“It’s a good workout. You’re getting all your cardio and movement. It’s like badminton. The strategy is similar.”

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