Courting interest in racquet sports

Try pickleball for free this Saturday in Hope as part of the RBC Sports Day in Canada

Don Bourquin and other local pickleball players invite you to a free pickleball demonstration Saturday at Silver Creek Elementary

Looking for a new activity to try out — or an old one to get back into? The local rec centre is featuring two racquet sport demos and try-outs this Saturday, Nov. 30, as part of the RBC Sports Day in Canada program.

Anyone from age 15 and up is welcome to try their hand at pickleball or badminton. Pickleball runs from 10 a.m. to noon at the Silver Creek school gym and badminton follows at the same location, from 1-3 p.m.

It’s all free and paddles and racquets will be provided, for those who don’t have them. Bring your runners and active wear.

RBC is the main sponsor for the nation-wide sports promotion. Other partners are the CBC, True Sport, Participaction, ViaSport, Black Press and Hope and District Recreation, Culture and Airpark Services.

“People who play the games weekly will be there to help out,” said rec centre assistant manager Mandy Arbuckle.

“We’ll also have Grant Brittain, from Pickleball International in Abbotsford, who’ll be out to give a demo,” added recreation programmer Kim Richardson.

“This is a fairly new initiative,” explained Richardson. “It’s to get people coming together for the love of sport. Last year, we had an open house of our facility and this year, we’re trying this.

“I plan on coming by,” said Richardson. “It’s a good opportunity for me to get out and try those sports.”

Speaking from Abbotsford on Tuesday, Brittain said he started his Pickleball International company a few years ago, to bring paddles in for people who couldn’t find them in their local sports shops.

“It’s grown from there,” said Brittain. “Now, I go around to rec centres on evenings and weekends and do clinics.”

The sport is really taking off with seniors but Brittain sees a lot value in it for younger generations and he has his 13, 11 and 8-year-old children playing.

In fact, the game was first developed as a family pastime.

“A lot of young people like to play singles,” said Brittain.

The game uses the same court as badminton but with a roughly tennis-height net. Unlike badminton, he explained, pickleball singles uses the whole court — not the narrowed-down singles court of badminton.

“When I started playing in my mid-30’s, I was going up against senior players and I figured I could take them on,” recalled Brittain. “But I was in for a surprise! It’s all about placement for them, not so much the power.”

As with badminton, you can get into pickleball for less than $100.

“Wooden paddles cost $20 but the better ones run from $45 to $100,” said Brittain. “The better ones have different cores and are made of graphite or carbon fibre.

“You buy a paddle and you’ve got it for five years or more. You only have to replace the handle grip and edge guard once in a while.”

Brittain said a lot of the interest among seniors has come from snowbirds who have played the game while on vacation in Florida, Arizona or California.

“Some of their facilities have 100 courts and they’re tearing out tennis courts and replacing them with pickleball,” said Brittain. “You can basically put four pickleball courts where one tennis court is.”

This Saturday, Brittain hopes to bring his son along and introduce the rules of the game.

“We’ll have people learn to hit the ball and from there, we’ll get into some little games.”

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