Janine Porter reaches for an overhead return, while her partner, Jon Nigh looks on. Barry Stewart/Hope Standard

Pickleball is picking up fans in Hope with open play and a social planned for Dec. 6

“A magically delicious game that can be approached from many ages and fitness levels,” says sports reporter Barry Stewart

Pickleball. Strange name — but a popular game, especially amongst the Baby Boomer crowd, looking for something a bit slower-paced than tennis or badminton. Only a bit, though.

For the uninitiated, imagine being shrunk down to leprechaun size so you could stand on a ping-pong table to play the game with your leprechaun friends. Or stay normal sized and have the ping-pong table expanded to the size of a badminton court. It has its own peculiar rules but it’s a magically delicious game that can be approached from many ages and fitness levels.

The game came to Hope in 2013, thanks in large part to Jon Nigh, who had been introduced to it by his sister. Participation has ebbed and flowed over the five years but it may now have secured a foothold at the Silver Creek gym.

RELATED: What is pickleball anyway?

Mike Freimark, assistant manager for Hope’s Recreation, Culture and Airpark Services said, “We’ve had a high of 18 and a low of 6, with the average around 12 participants for Monday night pickleball.”

Officially, the session runs from 6 till 9 p.m. Some start on time and leave early and others come a bit later and stay later. In any case, it’s an inexpensive sport — and the nets, balls and paddles are provided, though many players eventually buy their own paddles.

“Where else could you have so much fun for only two bucks?” said Peni Puschmann, Monday evening. She has really caught the pickleball bug and approaches the game from a recreational angle. If you hear someone laughing, there’s a good chance that Peni is somehow involved.

“You go ahead,” she told another woman, pointing to an open court, “I just finished playing.”

“Yeah, I know,” said the other woman. “You were my partner!”

“Oh yeah!” replied Puschmann, with a laugh.

Puschmann can be given a bit of slack, though, as she suffered a stroke two years ago and is now on a rebuild.

“It’s a good test for your memory,” she said. “Someone’s got to keep the score. It’s a great way to meet new friends, too.”

A game is over when one side gets to 11, winning by at least two — and you can only score when your side is serving. The score is called out by the server before each serve.

Pauline Cattrell is a regular attendee and said, “It’s an easy sport to learn. It’s not as hard as badminton or tennis (which she used to play) and you can play it at any level.”

RELATED: Increasing in local racquet sports

Donna Adamson is becoming a regular as well.

“I can’t get enough of it,” she said with a smile. She appreciates that even though the games are mostly played as doubles, you can join as a single person. “Everyone is so friendly,” she said.

“And, we have a very knowledgeable instructor, in Jon,” added Puschmann.

Nigh often travels to Rosedale and Chilliwack to play the game at a more competitive level and shares his experience and knowledge with players in Hope.

Next Monday is the last night for open pickleball at Silver Creek until after the Christmas break, as the gym will be getting set up for the school’s Christmas concert — but there may be a special pickleball social on Thursday, December 6. All that’s needed is the commitment of perhaps 12 to 16 players.

Freimark said a few weeks ago that it was intended as a singles tournament, as opposed to doubles, with a plan for a competitive and a recreational stream. The talk amongst players on Monday was that it should be doubles, as that is what is usually played in Hope.

Where it will all end up is unknown at this stage — but what is certain is that people have to step up and make a commitment to take part. Entry fee is $5.00, payable at the rec centre’s reception desk.

Friday, November 30 is your last chance, so organizers can get the event drawn up.

I’m in. How about you?

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