Are you in a pickle? If not, are you ready to get pickled in Leaside? If so, it seems you’re not alone. According to Pickleball Canada’s 2022 survey, an estimated 350,000 people play pickleball in Canada, tripling the number in just two years. Baby boomers report health, fun, and social benefits. They got an early foothold yet those aged 18 to 34 are currently the fastest growing demographic. So, not surprisingly, Leaside’s burgeoning Pickleball Club had a waitlist almost from the day it launched.
The newly formed club with its boisterous laughter from members drew me to Leaside United Church’s gym when volunteering with the set-up crew for the fall 2022 Awesome Sale. Now, the church sale crew is a fun bunch who certainly enjoy a good chuckle, yet usually pre-sale we’re all focused on getting the job done. But as I reached the gym the laughter showed no signs of letting up. I expected to see a group of kids indulging in youthful exuberance. Instead, there was a gaggle of adults with short paddles in hand, whacking a whiffle ball over a three-foot-high net playing pickleball.
The club launched early February 2022 with founding directors and players Annette Sonneveld, Tanya Pimenoff, Brenda French, Sandy Shim, Lorraine Wood, Margo Mingay and Sara McInnes. Said Annette, “Sara was our guiding light. She’s a skilled player, has been playing for years, and is a certified coach. She provided tips on equipment and coached us on how to hold and swing our paddles and play and score a game.” Margo added, “Sara’s assistance and suggestions for managing the club were invaluable.”
Brenda was one of six members of Leaside United’s renovation team. “One of our goals was to ensure the church be accessible and attract a variety of community members and organizations beyond church membership. Many pickleball and badminton club members, daycare, circus camp, choir and bicycle camp participants and their families are not church members. The plan is working! The church has many great rental spaces including the gym, meeting rooms, modern kitchens, the sanctuary, and a new sound system.”
When asked how the idea of a pickleball club formed, Margot said, “We know each from community service, book clubs and tennis. My memory is of Brenda, Annette, and me in one of our back yards chatting about where we could learn and play the game of pickleball. Someone commented how great it would be to have a club nearby. Next thing I knew, we were discussing how we could make this happen. We wanted to enjoy playing and not be bogged down with administration.”
Added Annette, “We decided we’d start small with a few sessions at varied times: two daytime and an evening session. Members would sign up for and pay for all dates in their selected session, minimizing administration and fees.”
Did they encounter any hurdles in their drive to add pickleball? “Insurance was a big challenge threatening to shut us down before we’d played a single game,” said Annette. “Lucky for us, Sara advised us to contact Pickleball Canada as they require all members to purchase insurance.” That insurance is exactly the coverage members require and must purchase to join the Leaside Club, for about $125, which will cover the Pickleball Ontario and Canada joint membership and one fall, winter or spring session with the Leaside Club.
The details of how to play and equipment required are clearly laid out on Pickleball Canada’s website. The terms are unique, yet before you know it, you’ll be shouting ‘pickle’ to announce your serve, hoping to avoid the ‘falafel’ by getting your shot over the net and smiling at your ‘dillball’ successfully bouncing once in bounds.
Annette offered a little hope for aspiring members who haven’t been able to discover the joys of pickleball just yet. “We’re growing slowly but are planning to add additional sections soon and welcome a few new members.”