Squash and tennis are huge sports in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Pickleball is just getting started there but already the Calgary Pickleball Academy is training athletes to become elite pickleball players through coaching and league play. Here’s their mission statement:
The Calgary Pickleball Academy provides professional training and competitive opportunities to pickleball athletes of all ages and levels. However, the primary focus of the Academy is on introducing pickleball to players in the 20-50-year-old age range.
The Calgary Pickleball Academy is part of Racquet Network, an all-racquetball sports network, with 3,000 players. Racquet Network employs 10 coaches that specialize in squash and tennis and now pickleball is also one of their specialties. Founder Brent Johner teaches 5 different racket sports including pickleball.
The Calgary Pickleball Academy primarily serves pickleball players between the age 20 and 55. Before joining a pickleball league, you must first try out. Here’s how they describe their program:
This is not a typical pickleball program; it was not designed for seniors. Team Pickleball was created to serve younger, more athletic pickleball players who enjoy competition and want a satisfying full body workout.
(I think a fair number of seniors also want a competitive and fully body workout, but that’s another blog entry.)
According to Johner, younger pickleball players want to use a heavier power paddle. They play singles and want an athletic, calorie-burning work out. The 55 and older players use lighter paddles and mix in social interaction while playing pickleball games. The younger players go out to the pub after the games for beer and wings; that’s their social time.
Right now, most of the folks who play in the pickleball league are Racquet Network staff and friends of staff. It’s a small league but highly competitive.
At Calgary Pickleball Academy, they believe a professional pickleball instructor can make a real difference in performance. Techniques in the play of squash transfer easily to the game of pickleball. They believe the training they offer produces better pickleball players.
Calgary Pickleball Academy has a dress code, “All players must be appropriately dressed in athletic clothing and must be wearing proper footwear.” Johner heartily endorses court shoes when playing pickleball. Court shoes allow the player to glide over the court surface. Running shoes often have lots of traction that grip the court and can cause the player to fall and get hurt. Johner also suggests wearing clothing that allows free movement to guard against falls.
The Pickleball Academy is currently training groups of firefighters. All the fire stations in Calgary have badminton courts that easily convert to pickleball courts. The firefighters want an athletic work out and pickleball provides them with a exactly what they’re looking for!
Many people from Edmonton and the U.S. take lessons while visiting Calgary. Next time you’re in Calgary, visit the Pickleball Academy.