A city administrator who was once responsible for Sarnia’s tennis courts has turned his sights on North America’s hottest new sport.
“Pickleball has been growing so fast that it’s impossible to keep up with the venues required to facilitate all the players,” said Terry McCallum, a retired director of community services and interim president of the newly formed Sarnia-Bluewater Pickleball Club
The sport is played by two or four players on a smaller-sized tennis court using a ‘whiffle ball’ and oversized, lightweight ping pong paddle.
The whiffle ball is served underhand from behind the baseline and the first team to 11 points wins. In close contests, as in tennis, you must win by two points.
Pickleball was invented 50 years ago near Seattle, Washington but has only recently taken off, especially among the 50-plus crowd.
More than 300 Sarnia pickleballers now play weekly both outdoors and indoors at the YMCA, St. Matthew elementary school and Lambton College, where “there’s everybody there from (age) 20 up to 90,” said McCallum.
The outdoor game is enhanced when tennis court are treated with a special finish that fills in the cracks so the ball bounces predictably.
The finish has been applied to courts at Germain Park, Cathcart Park and Kenwick Park in Bright’s Grove, McCallum said.
“The city has been really excellent in their response to the pickleball community,” he said.
McCallum recently made an unsuccessful pitch to the Awesome Foundation for grant money to further develop the pickleball infrastructure.
The new club wants to add permanent netting to six city courts along with between-court fencing, wind barriers as well as equipment for training purposes at the Strangway Centre, where workshops are held weekly.
“It’s very inexpensive,” McCallum said. ”For under $15 a person could be playing pickleball.”
There’s potential for even more outdoor courts being outfitted for the game and talk of an indoor, dedicated facility down the road, he said.
Sarnia is also hosting the 55+ Southwest Regional Games this year, which is bringing more 600 athletes including about 100 pickleball players.
Pickleball spoken here: A glossary of terms
Baseline: The line at the back of the pickleball court, which is 22 feet from the net.
Centerline: The line dividing the service courts that extends from the non-volley line to the baseline.
Crosscourt: The opponent’s court diagonally opposite a player’s.
Dink: A soft shot made with the paddle face open, and hit so it just clears the net and drops into the non-volley zone.
Kitchen: The zone seven feet from the net on both sides. Players may not enter the kitchen to return a ball unless the ball bounces first.
Net serve: A serve that touches the top of the net and lands in the proper service court (replayed without penalty).
Poach: In doubles, to cross over into your partner’s area to make a play on the ball.
Rally: Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams.
Sideline: The line at the side of the court constituting “in” and “out-of-bounds.”