A number of local pickleball players are proving that travelling to provincial championships isn’t just for kids.
About 30 people gathered at the Bonnyville District and Centennial Centre on July 6 for the qualifying match for the Alberta 55+ Summer Games being played in Drumheller at the end of September.
Players from across Zone 7, which covers an area from Alberta’s northern border to Wainwright, and from Lamont to Lloydminster, came out to show their skills and play for a spot at the province-wide tournament.
The games are intended to help keep seniors active in their golden years.
“We have to keep our seniors active,” said Lakeland Senior Games Association Activity Director Vic Ouellette. “A non-active mind or body is not a good thing.”
Pickleball is growing in popularity in Canada, with six tournaments being held over the summer in Alberta alone.
“It’s good exercise. It’s a quick sport and it’s competitive, there’s a lot of strategy involved in playing the game,” said player Joe Schafer of Bonnyville, who has been playing for two and a half years. “I find it’s more exercise than golfing. I can always get a good sweat going when playing this sport.”
The game plays similarly to games like tennis and badminton, with two players per team and a seven-foot zone in front of the net that cannot be entered while the ball is in the air. The court is 20 feet by 44 feet and games are played to 11 points, however to win there must be at least a two-point difference between the teams.
“If it happens to be 10-10, you still have to win by two,” noted Ouellette.
While there were nine separate categories that seniors could enter, there were only teams available to compete in three. Chuck Ouellette of St. Paul and Jacques Ouellette of Bonnyville (no relation) will be representing Zone 7 in the 75+ men’s category. In the 55+ men’s category, Bill Hall and Norman Kowalchuk of St. Paul will be carrying the banner, and in the 55+ mixed category Zone 7 will be sending Rob Barrett and Estelle Dechaine of Bonnyville to play.
“It’s a little easier than tennis, because you have two people,” said Barrett, who is the Bonnyville’s Ambassador to Pickleball Canada and has been playing for over five years. “It’s kind of a social game. There’s a lot of comradery.”
Those who missed the qualifier won’t be without their pickleball fix for long. The Lakeland Senior Games Association regularly hosts monthly games of its own throughout the zone.
Barrett added that he and his pals were usually out playing just about every day of the week, with both indoor games at the C2 and outdoor games at the tennis courts near Bonnyville Centralized High School.
An upcoming “fun day” is being organized for July 16 at the tennis courts. Barrett also noted that he is holding clinics every Monday at 7 p.m. to help people interested get into the game.
“We’re trying to get people who work during the day out,” explained Barrett. “That way it’s not just people who have retired playing.”
The Alberta 55+ Summer Games run from September 29 to October 1.