Ian Walton, the secretary of the Chesterfield Pickleball Club, introduces us to a new(ish), and rapidly growing sport!
Words: Ian Walton
Image: Simon Paterson
When I set off for Canada on a family visit in 2019, little did I imagine that I’d return home hooked on a brilliant new sport – pickleball!
We go to Squamish, a small town just north of Vancouver, for several weeks each year to spend time with our grandchildren. While there, I like to take my mountain bike out on the superb trails in this beautiful area. But as well as cycling, I enjoy tennis and racket ball so whilst away I decided to look for somewhere in Squamish to play these sports. I made a few enquiries at the local Sports Centre and discovered that while there were tennis courts in Squamish, there was no club or organised play, so without a partner, I wasn’t going to get a game. They suggested that the Over 50s Centre might help. When I called there however I was told: ‘There’s no tennis here - but why don’t you try pickleball?’
‘Pickleball? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it.’
I quickly discovered that pickleball is a mixture of tennis, badminton and table tennis. It’s played with paddles (like large table tennis bats) and a hollow plastic ball with holes in it, on a badminton-sized court. It’s both an indoor and outdoor sport, and the net is similar to that for tennis but a little lower. A pickleball travels at about a third of the speed of a tennis ball, and this slower speed combined with an underhand serve and a smaller court makes the game easier to play than tennis, and more inclusive for younger and older players.
After one session I was hooked! I went straight out and bought a paddle and played pickleball a couple of times a week for the rest of my stay in Canada.
When I returned to the UK, I wanted to carry on playing so I started surfing the internet, which led to a whole host of information, notably at www.pickleballengland.org. It says that the game was invented in the USA in 1965, and it is now the fastest growing sport over there with about 3.3 million players. It started to take off in the UK in 2010, mainly in the south, but it is now spreading to other regions. I also learned that there was a group playing at the Arc Leisure Centre in Matlock so I joined them on Friday afternoons.
I then decided to try and set up a group in Chesterfield. I invested in four paddles, a net and some balls and began to involve friends who were tennis and racket ball players. Very quickly there was sufficient interest to book a badminton court at Queen's Park Leisure Centre for our first game in Chesterfield, back in September 2019.
Because the game proved so popular in Chesterfield we formed a properly-constituted club in late 2020. Chesterfield Borough Council were very supportive when approached to help provide facilities and agreed to allow us to play on the outdoor tennis court at Eastwood Park, Hasland. This gave a huge boost to the game in Chesterfield.
Councillor Jill Manion-Brunt came to try pickleball and commented “I love it! This is just the thing Chesterfield needs to encourage more people of all ages to become active.”
With both indoor and outside courts and a newly formed club we will soon be in a position to apply for funding to buy equipment and further expand and promote the game. And who knows, maybe pickleball will one day be as popular here as other, better known sports.
In October 2020, Chesterfield Borough Council marked out four pickleball courts at Eastwood Park. This was a life saver for the club, as indoor play had been suspended because of the covid pandemic and it enabled play to continue when outside activities were permitted again. In March 2021 the Council awarded the club a grant towards additional equipment so that we could use all four courts at Hasland.
In late 2021 Queen's Park opened up again and we started playing indoors on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
The club committee realised that the club had a limited appeal when we could only offer daytime facilities and so in September 2021 we decided to look for an indoor evening venue. The sports hall at Chesterfield College was available and we booked to play on Monday evenings from 7:15pm until 8:45pm. This was a major step forward in the club’s development and membership rose dramatically, to the point where we took on another night, Wednesday, at the college. At this point in time, we had over fifty members and had to halt recruitment.
The college isn’t available for hire from Easter to October and so in early 2022 we started looking for somewhere else for evening play during the summer. We tried three different schools in the Chesterfield area, finally settling for Whittington Green School, where we play on Tuesdays and Fridays. We returned to Chesterfield College on 28th September and will offer evening play on four nights a week during the winter, as well as our regular indoor and outdoor sessions during the daytime and so we are looking for new members again!
To find out more about pickleball follow the link:
Or contact Ian Walton:
Sessions take place as below:
Monday - 2 to 4pm Eastwood Park, Hasland (Outside) £2
Monday - 7:15 to 8:45pm Chesterfield College (Inside) £5
Tuesday - 1:30 to 3pm Queens’ Park Sports Centre (Inside) £5
Tuesday - 7 to 8:30pm Whittington Green School (Inside) £5
Wednesday - 7:15 to 8:45pm Chesterfield College (Inside) £5
Thursday - 1:30 to 3pm Queens’ Park Sports Centre (Inside) £5
Thursday - 2 to 4pm Eastwood Park, Hasland (Outside) £2
Friday - 7 to 8:30pm Whittington Green School (Inside) £5