With paddles chomping at the bit to get back outdoors, Williams Lake Pickleball Club members have been taking advantage of early spring weather this month.
Since loosely becoming a club roughly six years ago, the WLPC now boasts 44 members and has been an official club affiliated with Pickleball BC and Pickleball Canada for the past two years.
Kevin Bourdon, president of the WLPC, said navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing restrictions has been a challenge, however, everyone is doing their best to make it work.
“Everyone’s excited to be outside now,” Bourdon said. “Being affiliated with them [Pickleball BC and Pickleball Canada] makes it a lot easier because they are on top of all the COVID-19 protocols and what we have to adhere to.”
Currently, only couples are allowed to play doubles as members of the same team. Individual players are restricted to singles matches only.
“And right now we’re allowed 10 people at a time as our group outside at the courts at Kiwanis,” he said. “We make sure we space our chairs out and make sure we’re COVID compliant. We have hand sanitizer, and sanitize the balls and all that.”
During the winter, the club had been playing indoors at Cataline until school gymnasiums were no longer on limits. They were then able to play indoors at the Elks Hall in small groups of six for singles play.
“Now, when the weather is a little nicer, there is usually someone there [at Kiwanis] every day,” he said.
“Last year we had a group playing every day around 4, 4:30 p.m. The sport has gotten really popular.”
Professional pickleball has been gaining momentum in the U.S., Bourdon said, with purse money reaching $150,000 at some tournaments, plus sponsor endorsements.
“The top player in the world is 22 years old right now,” he said, noting the sport is also shedding its reputation of being for seniors.
“All the pros are in the 20 to 35 year old range, then there is open men’s, seniors up to about 70 years old, then after that there are masters tournaments.”
Bourdon said he thinks part of the appeal of the sport is its accessibility. Prior to the pandemic, the club begun to host several clinics and local tournaments for players.
“It’s one of those lifelong sports,” he said. “We have a little court at home and we play with our grandkids who are four and five and a half, and they just have a blast. It’s a sport where within probably 15 to 20 minutes of giving people instruction they can hit it across the net and have a bit of game. That’s what’s cool about the sport – all ages can play.”
In the long-term, the club’s dream is to eventually find or build its own home in the form of club-managed pickleball courts in Williams Lake.
“We try to be mindful if there are people at Kiwanis wanting to play tennis we keep to one side, or if people do show up for tennis, we do move over,” he said.
“Our games last about 15 minutes average, so we can be on and off fairly quickly.”
Bourdon encourages anyone interested in trying out the sport to contact the club, or drop by the Kiwanis tennis courts.
The WLPC also has a Facebook page with registration information, and a link is available on the Pickleball BC website.