Pickleball clinic aims to increase sport’s popularity prior to Blueberry Festival tournament
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Community members hosted a pickleball clinic at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena last week to try and spark more local interest in the sport.
“We’ve been talking about doing a clinic for a while. I was always trying to get people out but they heard it was too competitive even though it doesn’t have to be,” said Anne Saltel, who helped organize the clinic.
Pickleball is a paddle sport and meshes elements together from table tennis, badminton and tennis with individuals or teams of two using paddles to hit a perforated wiffle-style ball over a net.
“There are only about four people here that have never played before but they’re doing really well. The easiest way to learn is to jump in and try it out,” said Saltel during the clinic.
James Mansfield, Bruce Van Horne and John Libler also helped initiate the pickleball clinic. The three of them play a lot during warm vacations to the southern states. They all agreed that with the help of word-of-mouth the sport can really grow locally like it has in Kenora and Fort Frances.
“We were hoping for a little more people but once the word starts to spread around more people will turn out,” said Mansfield.
“Kenora and Fort Frances are growing. They both got new courts, but we’re happy with the facilities we have here. It’s a good start, and we’re happy with it,” said Libler.
The group shared that the goal of the clinic was to get more people interested and playing pickleball for their upcoming tournament during the Blueberry Festival.
“Since we have the indoor courts now, it would be nice to showcase them somehow and that’s when they thought of having a tournament during the Blueberry Festival,” said Sioux Lookout Recreation and Culture manager Rick Ladouceur.
Ladouceur also acknowledged the sport’s popularity among seniors in the States and how it’s leading to more interest in Canada thanks to snowbirds. The sport’s popularity in the U.S is exactly what they’re hoping to target during the Blueberry Festival, which brings in quite a few visitors from out of town and from south of the border.
“It’s one of the fastest growing sports for seniors in the U.S so it is certainly catching fire here and in surrounding communities as well,” he said.
“I know that a lot of people who are snowbirds play it wherever they go. It’s very popular. There’s a movement here that they would like a court outside and they feel that people would feel more inclined to play outside instead of inside, which we’re working on,” Ladouceur continued.
As for right now, Sioux Lookout residents looking to play pickleball will have to play indoors on the freshly painted cement at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena.
“It might takes us a few years to get it established but we couldn’t ask for anything more. We have the new rec director to help us along and give us the opportunity to play in here,” said resident and pickleball player Bruce Van Horne.
Moving forward, Ladouceur shared that where people play pickleball could be determined by another goal of his. He is looking to bring in an artificial turf surface that would be placed over the cement in the rink.
“One of my goals is to possibly look at an artificial turf to place inside the rink, which I think would be a huge benefit to the community if we could pull that off. The moment the ice is out, you could have artificial turf laid down and kids and adults could use it,” Ladouceur concluded.