Quesnel’s Rink 2 arena was being used for a purpose its builders might never have imagined on Wednesday (April 17).
Its ice has been taken out for the warmer months and the rink was split into four courts with nets bisecting them all.
Fifteen aspiring pickleballers were bashing a plastic ball with rackets that resembled suped-up table tennis paddles.
They were all learning the fundamental details of the game with the help of Brooke Siver and his wife, Elya Postma.
Siver is the owner of Manta World Sport, a pickleball equipment manufacturer in Kamloops. He was invited by the newly formed Quesnel Pickleball Club to give lessons in the relatively new sport which is surging in popularity across the world.
Over 40 people took part in three clinics that were offered through the day, which catered to beginner, intermediate and advanced players.
A sit-down rules clinic was also provided in the evening at the Seniors Centre.
“We’re going over all the funky rules,” Siver says. “Pickleball as a lot of goofy rules.”
The certified pickleball teacher was a squash professional who retired from the sport but still wanted something to keep him active and engaged.
His company, Manta World Sport, has been involved with squash since 1970 but expanded their operations to include pickleball gear six years ago.
He says the sport has blown up since then.
“It’s crazy,” he exclaims, “When we started six years ago in this industry there were eight manufacturers and about 200,000 people playing.
“Right now, there’s rumoured to be about seven million people playing and well over 200 manufacturers.”
Siver says he and his wife travel 42 weeks out of the years teaching people how to play the game the way it was meant to be played.
In his travels, he has come across a common misconception to many onlookers and newcomers.
“A lot of people think this is a glorified smaller version of tennis,” he says, “Yes, the ball is basically wacked back and forth but really the game is a much softer game and it’s a strategic game of keeping the ball low and slow over the net to create an opportunity where you can hit as winner.
Siver points out most people, upon first learning the sport discover they are good at hitting it hard, so they think the game is all about how hard they can smash the ball.
“If you hit it hard you can win but that’s not the game,” he insists, “The game is low and slow over the net until you create an opportunity for a winning shot and it’s that winning shot that you would then pound home for a winner.”
In addition to the game’s fundamentals, like serving and returning, that is what he is driving home at the clinics he presides over.
“The whole soft game is the game of pickleball,” he says, “If we can drive that point home they have way more fun playing because their rallies last 15-16 shots.
“I can tell the level of a pickleball club just driving by counting how many shots a rally takes.
“Its’ usually four, five or six and that’s very indicative of a low-level pickleball club because you should be able to hit 15, 20 shot rallies.
“At the level I play at, our rallies are 30 to 35 shots before there’s a mistake, which we can then drive home for a winner.”
Sheila Pritchard was one of the students in the beginner session on Wednesday morning.
“It was absolutely excellent,” she said soon after the clinic had wrapped up, “It made me rethink the whole game.
“I changed my grip, changed my paddles and learned a phenomenal amount.”
Pritchard, who has been playing the sport since last September, says she had quite a few bad habits to break.
‘Things that I had been told previously to do, I learned that I needed to change and get back into using what I suppose is legal.”
The spry pickleballer listed all the sport has to offer.
“Learning something new at my age is great and the physical activity of it, the camaraderie. I just like everything about it.”
While the sport is exploding in popularity, its primary demographic has been retirees.
A lot of snow birds pick the sport up when travelling to warmer climates in the United States over the winter months.
Siver says he and his colleagues are trying to grow the sport among the youth next.
“It’s just starting to catch on,” he points out. “Obviously the school system has to buy in and we’re starting to see school programs being set up.”
Now, he is looking for more rec centres to set up facilities.
“Once they buy in and the kids start playing more we can see growth moving downwards in age.”
He is advocating for the sport he has come to love everywhere he goes.
For those interested in giving the sport a shot, the Quesnel Pickleball Club has a Facebook page they can be reached at.