Why some Nova Scotians are getting hooked on pickleball

Sport picking up players and fans as it grows across the province

Anne Cogdon doesn’t regret switching her tennis racket for a pickleball paddle.

Cogdon took up pickleball after injuring her shoulder playing tennis a few years ago. She said she stopped playing for a few years and just recently decided to start again in November.

“I love it. It’s an easier sport to play than tennis. I feel so much more comfortable playing pickleball,” she said. “It’s so fun meeting new people.”

Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, where two to four players on the court hit a wiffleball over a net using paddles. It has similar rules to tennis and badminton.

It was developed in Bainbridge Island, Washington State, U.S., more than 40 years ago. The sport was introduced to Nova Scotia in 2011 by Steve and Patsy Simon, who created the Nova Scotia Pickleball Association. In 2015, the association was renamed to Pickleball Nova Scotia and the Simons stepped down.

Now, more than 600 members are a part of Pickleball Nova Scotia. The sport is played at the East Dartmouth Community Centre (EDCC), Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax YMCA and more. Pickleball Nova Scotia has hosted more than 10 tournaments since 2015.

Don Shay, a pickleball regular at the EDCC, said the sport appeals to a wide range of people.

“The beauty of this sport is that it’s much easier on your joints than in badminton. It’s just an easier game to pick up,” he said.

Brent Hobson, 70, from Pickleball Nova Scotia, said he saw an ad in the newspaper four years ago. He and his wife went to the EDCC to try it out and quickly became hooked.

“We call it ‘crack ball’ because people get so hooked to it,” he said.

Brent and Dawn Hobson help teach pickleball.   Lesli Tathum

Pickleball has two potential origin stories, said Hobson. The first involves a father and his children. According to Hobson, they were bored and started playing with different pieces of sports equipment. They had a dog named Pickles, and when they hit the ball, he would run after it, so they started calling it “Pickleball.”

The name could also come from the term “pickle boat,” which is a boat made up of a mismatched crew, said Hobson. Similar to pickle boat, pickleball is made up of a variety of sports.

Hobson said the sport has been growing both recreationally and competitively. Across Nova Scotia, the sport can be found in gym classes. There are professional leagues outside of the province.

Beginner Loretta Stefurap practising her hand-eye co-ordination.   Lesli Tathum

Hobson and his wife got their family into pickleball.

“For family vacations, it’s not about how close we are to the beach or the nightclubs. It is about how close we are to pickleball courts,” he said.

Hobson said the only skill required is good hand-eye co-ordination.

He also said pickleball is a great way to socialize: “It can be played at a very demanding level, or just knocking it over the net and talking about what was on The View.”

Hobson plays four to six times a week to help maintain his level of fitness. He compared his fitness to his parents at his age, saying “pickleball allows me to age more gracefully.”

“I have a good friend that plays, and the one thing she says about pickleball is that she has never laughed so much when she plays the game,” he said.

Lesli Tathum

Lesli Tathum

Lesli is from the Cayman Islands. She is in her fourth year of journalism at the University of King's College and is a member of the King's Women's Varsity Soccer team.

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