East Gwillimbury resident Kathleen Redmond said she realized she needed something to keep active as she reached her senior years.
When friend and Newmarket Pickleball Club president Debra Scott approached her about taking up the sport last spring, Redmond found her fitness in a game she got hooked on. Compared to other sports, Redmond said the ease of getting into it appealed to her.
“Pickleball for me has been terrific because it’s really encouraged me to exercise more,” she said. “It’s helping me stay fit, have fun … It supports the rest of my life.”
The Newmarket Pickleball Club is wrapping up its first season at the end of the month as winter looms. Started this spring to help run the new pickleball courts the town has planned to build, the club has burgeoned to more than 400 members in its first year.
Scott said that was achieved without anything beyond word-of-mouth advertising.
“It just confirms what the media has been reporting on pickleball. The growth, the popularity, the ease of learning to play for all different ages is absolutely true,” Scott said.
But it is among older age groups where the game has its highest popularity, with the average age of the club at 60.
The non-profit club was made through an affiliate agreement with Pickleball Canada, which allows clubs to quickly start up, Scott said. However, she said the club will explore becoming a properly registered non-profit to help pursue grants.
Still, the affiliate agreement has allowed it to collect member fees to fund the club's various events. From weekly drop-in sessions to workshops to social events that mix in pickleball, Scott said their outings have maintained good popularity.
“As a club, we wanted to bring a social component,” she said. “As opposed to just playing Tuesday night here and Wednesday afternoon somewhere else.”
The town has recently worked to improve facilities to meet the demand. It plans to create a new outdoor pickleball facility at the current Lions Park tennis courts, which could become a winter domed facility in the future after initial construction. That would be run by the Newmarket Pickleball Club in the summer, similar to how the Newmarket Tennis Club has run the Keith Davis Tennis Centre. The facility will be paid for by the Shining Hill developer as part of an agreement with the town.
“Like a lot of communities, everyone is looking for more facilities,” Scott said, adding praise for the municipality for its efforts to support pickleball. “The need is there. They found a creative way of getting the facility, but without a lot of burden on the taxpayer.
The club will continue into next year and look to expand programming, Scott said, particularly around learn-to-play events.
Redmond said the club’s activities are terrific and she has gained confidence in the sport after six months of playing. Pickleball is something she hopes to use to stay fit and age gracefully.
“It’s encouraging me to really make sure that I keep my own fitness level up,” she said. “It’s my sport now.”