The 2023 Pickleball Alberta Provincial Championships are officially underway in Red Deer.
From Aug. 10-13, 541 athletes from across Alberta will compete for a provincial gold at the Red Deer Pickleball Club. Rain caused some delays in play Thursday, but did not damper enthusiasm.
Sheila Crouch, a member of the local club and a referee at provincials said the number of participants at provincials is higher than normal.
“It’s my understanding it’s high and we actually have more people registered for provincials than western regionals which includes four provinces,” she said.
“This is a large number for provincials if not the highest.”
She credits the growth of the sport to its rise in popularity. The Red Deer Pickleball Club she said years ago when they first started had around 200 members which has grown to over 900 today.
“A lot of youth are coming out to play,” she said.
“I think the stigma that it was just for seniors has been put by the waste side. It’s been introduced in schools so kids are learning more about it and more parents are getting their kids out to experience it. I think it’s catching on.”
Throughout the four-day event, each match will be played on the 20 courts available at the Red Deer Pickleball Club.
There are doubles, singles, and junior brackets that include age categories. At the junior level only competitors aged 18 and under can compete.
The events are double elimination. On the A side of the bracket, each match will be best two out of three to 11, and on the B side it’s one game to 15. Each game must be won by at least two points.
“For me, I know I’m local but anytime I get to travel to a tournament and see my pickleball family that’s a huge thing,” she said.
“I think that’s a big thing for a lot of other people is they get to come compete, have fun, but the main thing is they get to see all their friends.”
For spectators interested there are food trucks and beer gardens available on location as well as a silent auction table. The Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre is also operating a daily 50/50 raffle.
“The game is catching on. People will travel to these tournaments just to compete, meet new people, and hopefully go home with a medal. That’s the ultimate goal.”