If you build it, they will come.
Nearly eight years ago, the Red Deer Pickleball Club had a dream to one day build a dedicated set of pickleball courts and eventually host a national tournament.
They wanted to share their love of the sport with players across the country and the community. Two years ago, the courts were finally opened and a year later, Red Deer won a bid to host a national event.
That national championship takes place this week. Close to 800 players between the ages of 13 to 81, from coast to coast across Canada have gathered in Red Deer for the Pickleball Canada National Championships which will go on for the next five days.
“We’re just filled with excitement and a certain amount of relief to finally be here. It’s been such a long road,” said Patrick Galesloot, a member of the local organizing committee.
“So much uncertainty with COVID over the last year and a half, especially with the numbers we saw in May. To finally be here and to see people out playing and enjoying the facility that we have here, it’s overwhelming the emotion that we’re all going through.”
That facility, the Motorworks Field pickleball courts in the north end of the city, a fully dedicated, 20-court pickleball facility, is unique.
“It’s such a sense of accomplishment and pride. This is a top-notch facility in North America and it’s the largest in Canada of this size and nature. There’s so much pride for our sport and for our community and we’re thankful to be able to share it,” Galesloot said.
That sentiment was echoed all the way across the board from players and organizers alike, including members of Pickleball Canada who made the trip.
Vice president Tony Casey said the facility is beautiful and hopes this week will help shine more light on the sport.
“We’re seeing more examples of dedicated courts for pickleball. Pickleball is growing in leaps and bounds and it’s really important that there be wherever possible dedicated pickleball courts… it’s great to see this and you’ll see more of this across the country,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is to work at providing more opportunities for young people to play pickleball, also people with disabilities, individuals who have perhaps haven’t yet discovered the game.
“One of the nice things about pickleball, is we feel like it’s got tremendous potential for young people to play with their parents or their aunts and uncles or grandparents. It’s one of those sports where because it’s easy to learn how to play – it’s challenging to become really good, but it’s almost intergenerational.”
Just a flurry of activity at the #RedDeer pickleball courts as the @PickleballCA nationals get underway today. Event goes from Aug. 10-15. @PickleballRD about 800 competitors competing this week. pic.twitter.com/udpqPrlTwZ
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) August 10, 2021
Top talent will be on display over the week, with pro-level players competing for a Canadian title. Players are ranked based on skill level, with 3.0 being intermediate and top players coming in at a rank of 5.0. There will be singles, doubles and mixed doubles play throughout the week.
For those new to the sport, Galesloot explained its cross between badminton and tennis. The court dimensions are similar to badminton, with the racquet skills mimicking tennis.
“It’s kind of like tennis. The paddle is a solid surface paddle, like ping pong. It’s a blend of table tennis, tennis and badminton. The court size is roughly the same size as a badminton court and the height of the net is roughly the same size as a tennis net,” he said.
“Courts are smaller, it’s a more intimate setting, the most common format is doubles pickleball. It becomes a very social game and it’s a lot of fun.”
Play starts each day at 8 a.m., with entertainment in the evening. For results from each day of competition, head to www.pickleballbrackets.com.
As of Tuesday, Faza Ariaee won gold in men’s singles 3.5 level under 50, David Clarke earned silver and Guy Wright collected bronze. Keith Szautner won gold in 3.5 level 50-64, Grant Boulay won silver and Greg LeClerc earned bronze. Grant Dussiaume won gold in the 65 and over 3.5 level, with Greg Young grabbing silver and Wayne Pope won bronze.