Pickleball, played with a hard paddle and perforated plastic ball, a game similar to badminton and tennis, began as a backyard family game in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The game, now played with formalized rules on a badminton court, was named after a family dog called Pickles who chased the balls and hid them in the bushes. Eventually, Pickles' ball became pickleball.
Today, pickleball is recognized as a fast-paced game, great for hand-eye co-ordination, mental alertness and socializing.
"The first time I tried pickleball, I became hooked," says former educator and current Victoria/Nanaimo USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) co-ambassador, Susan Guest, who tries to promote pickleball whenever she can. "Ask anyone who knows me. I mention pickleball within the first half hour of meeting someone new."
Susan first tried pickleball five years ago in Kelowna when a friend in her aerobics class suggested she try playing "pickle something," a game Susan had never heard of. The friend was so enthusiastic about the game that Susan decided to try it. Claiming to have been a non-racquet playing person, Susan found pickleball "easy to learn and loads of fun. A beginner can learn to play pickleball in less than an hour."
Two years ago, after playing pickleball in Florida and Arizona, Susan came home with the B division silver medal for her age group in doubles play at the Arizona Senior Olympics.
"The most challenging part of the sport is placing the ball accurately," says the 30-year cancer survivor. "It's not a sport of brute strength; it's about accuracy and placement. You learn different techniques and strategies from other players. One of the challenges of this game is developing fast reflexes to respond to a wide range of shots to return over the net," says Susan, who plays the game three times a week. "You need to learn to work with a partner to cover the court and be ready to return the ball from all areas. There is a skill in being able to strategically return the ball so your opponents find it hard to return it."
Having spent 25 years as a long distance runner completing numerous races including half marathons, 10 official and six unofficial marathons, Susan is currently training for the Times Colonist 10k run this month.
Susan also belongs to Club Tread, dances several times a week with the Victoria Ballroom Dance Society, takes Argentine Tango lessons, plays table tennis once a week, does aerobics twice a week and plays card and board games with her grandchildren. "It seems the more I do, the more energy I have," she says.
Lois and Jeff Watt came to Canada from Australia in 1967 to teach and travel for a year; they stayed another 40. The Watts lived in Southwestern Ontario until their children grew up and decided to head West. "When we retired, we decided to join them, and we are really pleased to have made the big move across the country," says Lois.
Lois was first introduced to pickleball a year ago when Susan came to her table tennis group with a flyer outlining the game. Lois and some of her friends decided to try it out and, like Susan, they got hooked. Lois' husband, Jeff, who had hip replacement surgery in 2008, was unable to get into the game until January 2009. Now, the couple plays pickleball twice a week.
SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND - April 2009
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