What is pickleball and why Hamilton needs 12 new pickleball courts

It's a sport like tennis, played on a court between two or four people. It's less physically demanding but making inroads in high schools and amongst baby boomers.

According to players and advocates, the net and ball game is ramping up in popularity here

Part of the $40 million investment in Confederation Park's redevelopment is building 12 new pickleball courts to meet increased demand for the game. 

And what is pickleball, exactly?

It's a fast-growing sport, particularly among the Baby Boomer demographic that isn't yet ready for lawn bowling. But the net and ball game is also making inroads in area high schools, underlining its broad appeal.

There's something about it: when you hit that ball, it makes you want to hit it again.- Marty McCann, 63

Pickleball is like tennis, but played on a court a quarter the size and typically at a slower pace. You can play singles or doubles, also like tennis.

Jeff Morgan runs Pickleball Hamilton, which functions as a club for players and a non-profit organization advocating for the growth of the sport.

High school players

"Our club started out 4 years ago with a dozen people," he said. "Now we have 120 members."

And those are just the dedicated members. The outdoor courts at six city recreation centres on the Mountain see use from thousands. With a play style less physically demanding than many other sports, it's most popular among seniors, but Morgan takes pride in the game's expansion into high schools.

Students at eight out of 12 public high schools have been introduced to the sport in their physical education classes.

More than a funny name

 "It's a game just about anyone can play," he said, "with all different levels of athletic and physical cability."

I just want people to look past the goofy name and see that this is a sport with so much potential.- Jeff Morgan, Pickleball Hamilton

And it's practical for schools because it's played on the same floor lines as Badminton, meaning high school gymnasiums are already set up for it.

Furthermore, says Morgan, it's far more space efficient than tennis -- a sport with a steeper learning curve.

Pickleball's low barrier to entry is one of its main advantages, and a selling point for facilities looking to grow their list of activities.

"I've lost 10 pounds in the last little while," said Marty McCann, 63. McCann is an active fellow, training dogs professionally and being an avid hockey player.

"But there's something about it: when you hit that ball, it makes you want to hit it again."

"I'm a new addict. My wife and I joke about it being addictive -- but it really is." he said.

McCann discovered the sport while staying in Florida, where he says it was popular amongst older people who weren't in the best shape already.

"It's great for people like that, for getting active."

Not ready for lawn bowling

He was happy to find Morgan's club at home in Hamilton, and has been playing several days a week throughout the summer. Baby boomers in North America are some of the "healthiest and wealthiest" people in the world, said Morgan.

"And they're the ones driving this. They don't want to play lawn bowling, they don't want to play Bocci.

"They want to do something that's more active," he said, "and this is something that's fitting that bill for them."

"I just want people to look past the goofy name," Morgan said, "and see that this is a sport with so much potential."