In a pickle

November 2023

Is it tennis? Is it racquetball? Ping pong? All of the above? It’s pickleball, and it’s the fastest growing sport in Canada.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says player Tracy Switzer. “You can play in summer or winter, at all skill levels, and it isn’t expensive. A paddle and ball can be purchased for $50!”

Pickleball is a sport that can be played indoors or out, in which two (singles) or four (doubles) players hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball with paddles over a 34 inch high net. It was invented in 1965 as a children’s backyard game on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, USA.

“It has a short learning curve,” says player Tricia Sampson. “I was introduced by a friend in the summer of 2022 who bought a pickleball set off Amazon and said come try this out. We went out a few times and now I play in a women’s league that has 36 women playing a ladder format. It’s very addictive!”

“I’ve coached tennis, hockey and baseball,” says head coach Jason Horychuk, “So when I played my first game of pickleball in 2018, I knew I had to get certified for that. I now run clinics three times a week out of the Moose Hall.”

According to Pickleball Canada, it is ‘inclusive, fun, and easy to learn, but challenging to master,’ and all you need is a paddle, a pickleball and a pair of running shoes!

“It’s an easy game to learn and an easy game to play,” says Horychuk. “It’s a smaller court and the strokes are short and compact. You don’t have to run as much as in tennis, and that makes playing easier on the body.”

“The best thing about pickleball,” says Switzer, “Is that it can be as physical as you want it to be. You can give 100% effort and burn a ton of calories, or it can also be slow-paced and just for fun.”

In Thunder Bay, there are several places to play the sport (both indoors and out) but the general consensus is the best way to get started is to join the Thunder Bay Pickleball Club.

“If you join the club, you have access to the player lineup and openings for all the courts,” says Switzer. “You can reserve your time slot and play when it works for you.”

“There are classes and clinics for all skill levels,” says Horychuk, “From beginner to novice to intermediate to advanced. The leagues can get competitive too, and we’ve travelled all over the region for tournaments. It’s growing by leaps and bounds.”

In fact, within the last 2 years, the club’s membership has increased from 50 to over 275 and has gone from 1 certified coach to 5. While the sport can be played just about anywhere, there are certain court surfaces that are better for gameplay than others, and the lack of courts is becoming a problem.

“I have yet to meet anyone that isn’t looking to play more,” says Sampson, “Times fill up quickly and there’s a shortage of courts to accommodate all the members.”

“There are 4 dedicated courts at Boulevard in the Port Arthur end of town,” says Horychuk, “But none on the Fort William side. The ideal pickleball courts should be the correct size, correct surface and accessible by bus.”

This summer, the Club made a deputation to City Council proposing a dedicated pickleball facility at the Northwood Playfield. There’s currently no word on approval, but with the current growth in the number of players and leagues, it’s sure to become a priority.

“The sport is not just for retirees,” says Horychuk. “It really is for ages from 9 – 90. We have our very own Northwestern Ontario Youth Pickleball program, and we have just finalized an agreement to run lessons with students at the Lakehead University Wolf Den.”

“Learning a new sport later in life is awesome,” says Sampson. “But even better is getting reacquainted with old friends who you used to play soccer and softball with, who are also addicted to the game. We haven’t seen each other since we last played sports together and “retired,” but now, we’re back enjoying this new sport! We can play for hours and not even realize it!”

“It’s a sport that really can be for everyone,” says Switzer.

If you’re interested in trying out pickleball for yourself, check them out on Facebook as the Thunder Bay Pickleball Club or contact the club at

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at

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