BONNYVILLE – Pickleball has a long history in the Town of Bonnyville.
For over a decade, residents have been encouraging others to try the sport and growing the community.
“We found it would be very important for our Town to promote something to do, especially for people who are retiring or even people in their 40s and 50s to have something to do that’s healthy,” explained Town resident Estelle Dechaine.
The sport grew in Bonnyville through word of mouth. Players, like Dechaine, encouraged others to try the sport and a group started playing at the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre in the Field House in the mornings.
But what is pickleball?
Local player and instructor Rob Barrett explained pickleball is a combination of badminton, tennis, and ping pong.
“Some people say it’s like ping pong being played outside, which isn’t too far off the mark. Certainly, people who have played tennis adapt to the game fairly easily,” he noted, adding athletes use paddles to hit a perforated hallow ball over a net.
Barrett continued,” (Pickleball) courts are smaller compared to tennis. The court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, which is more or less a badminton (court). It’s what we utilize at the C2, the badminton courts. There’s this one line that’s different than badminton and that’s what they call the non-volley zone line. It’s seven feet from the net.”
Pickleball clinics and tournaments have been organized over the years, which had players coming from all over the Lakeland to participate.
“(Our numbers) were really taking off from 2014 to 2019,” explained Linda Eyles, instructor and organizer for the C2 pickleball group. “Then, we had COVID-19. From there, we had to split into co-horts and smaller groups. That’s been difficult in a way because it split the group. But, on the other hand, it’s slowly coming back.”
According to Eyles, their winter program is strong, and she hopes their numbers will continue the upward trend.
Eyles, Barrett, and Dechaine all hope the Town’s new outdoor pickleball courts will also assist in increasing the number of local residents who pick up a paddle.
“It’s a great summertime activity,” detailed Barrett. “From a family financial perspective, it’s certainly a lot more economical to get involved.”
Dechaine agreed, “It’s a great family activity or sport because you can play at all ages.”
Reaching a younger demographic is one of the hopes Barrett has now that the Town has a space to play pickleball outside.
“There were two groups that I thought we were missing. It was the kids and the working parents and adults. We’re retired, we have all day to go play so it’s easier for us to do that. It’s not quite as easy for mom and dad, who are both working.”
The Bonnyville pickleball winter play is a drop-in program. Eyles books the Field House at the C2 in the mornings and sends out the information to those who are interested in playing. Eyles also let’s everyone in the email chain aware of evening bookings, tournaments, or upcoming clinics.
Dechaine, Eyles, and Barrett encouraged anyone who’s interested to come out to the C2 to learn a new sport.
“It’s easy to learn,” Eyles added. “You learn by playing. That’s the easiest way to learn pickleball, is by coming out and playing.”
For more information, email Eyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 780-826-2744.