Ontario Pickleball Club Creates Free, Year-Long Program for Kids

Pickleball has a reputation as an old timers’ sport, and that’s fine by us—more time on the courts! But sometimes you just have to wonder: Won’t someone think of the children?

Today an Ontario club is sharing how they not only started an adult pickleball league, but created an entirely new pickleball program for kids.

This past August, Dan Pronovost of the K-W Badminton Club was awarded a $13,331 provincial grant to start a free pickleball program for the community’s youth. It’s an exciting development that will help show how the game’s versatile appeal while giving kids a positive outlet for their energy.

KWBC Building

Setting the Scene

“I’ve been a member of the K-W Badminton Club (KWBC) for many years,” Dan explains. “About 5 years ago, it became clear we’d need to purchase our building to continue growing our club and add additional sports. I joined the board to help manage this process and oversee renovating our 45,000 sq. ft. building.

“I’m happy to say since the purchase of our building in 2013, we’ve renovated about 25,000 sq. ft. of space for sport use. About 75% of the building is in use by our sports tenants and users. This includes axe throwing, roller derby, bike polo, professional wrestling and pickleball, along with our badminton club of course.”

Dan says that his group first reached out to KWPA, the Kitchener Waterloo Pickleball Association, in 2014 to bring the sport onto their six court badminton facility. Thanks to this cooperation, they now have daily pickleball programs for all skill levels.

“Hundreds of players visit the facility for pickleball every week, from beginners to advanced players who visit despite being hours away. Pickleball has been an excellent way to add additional weekday daytime programming in a facility that would otherwise be empty.”

KW Pickleball Interior

Wish Granted

Clearly, the club’s leadership went a long way toward getting pickleball established in the first place. But considering grants are something many pickleball groups would love to obtain, how did Dan make his case? Turns out it was a combination of past experience and finding an underserved demographic.

Dan Pronovost

Dan Pronovost

“We became aware of the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund (OSRCF) through our successful Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grants in past years. In talks with KWPA, we decided that pickleball for youth is a very underdeveloped demographic, since the sport is primarily aimed at seniors.

“But pickleball is of course equally exciting and fun for kids! The partnership opportunity with KWPA made perfect sense: KWBC is a mature and fiscally strong non-profit organization with grant experience and a world class sporting venue. KWPA has excellent talent for developing and leading a professionally-coached youth pickleball lessons program.”

The money for the grant has been allocated for, in order of usage:

– Coaching/instructor costs for the lessons (although 50% of the coaching is volunteer/non-paid)

– Additional administrative staffing and facility upkeep

– 20 new pickleball paddles and sufficient balls for one year

– Development of the coaching program/youth lessons sets

– Coaches certification and training

There are an incredible 192 kids that will get to enjoy this new program, where before there were no local opportunities for kids to play pickleball. The KWBC has also run paid youth badminton lessons for over 10 years which have been successful, so they feel confident there will be similar interest in pickleball.

KW Pickleball Games

Dan says the OSRCF grant will let them to make the pickleball lessons available for free to all participants for the 2016/17 school year, even with paddles and balls being included. With professional coaching, a great venue and free lessons, it’s not hard to see why spots fill up fast.

Their aim is to use the OSRCF grant to “seed”‘ the pickleball youth program in 2016/17, then continue with a nominally paid program beyond that to break even.

It’s a smart and beneficial model for all parties involved. While securing the grant was relatively straightforward, there are other concerns Dan has about supporting a thriving sports community.

Effort and Expansion

“The challenge is maintaining an 80+ year old building for sport use. Since the purchase of our building in 2013, we’ve invested over $500,000 in renovations and thousands of volunteer hours. While we are very happy to have received generous grants from sources like OTF and OSRCF, we can always use more help to further improve the quality of our venue.

“We are hoping to further renovate our 10,000 sq. ft. concrete rink pad space, which is used for pickleball and roller derby, by replacing part of the roof, adding heating for better winter usage, insulation, and high-quality floor painting and lines. Adding air conditioning for summer-time use is one of our more frequent member and user requests!

KWPA Players

“The demand for sport space in the core of Kitchener is growing, but there are no municipal plans to add venues. Every time we open an area of our building for tenants and renters, the space is taken almost immediately, especially for lesser-known sports struggling to compete for space.”

Dan says that he believes forward thinking, financially secure non-profit organizations such KWBC are key to helping address shortages of sport space for everyone in the community.

He also welcomes and encourages all pickleball players to visit their club, so if you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop by! KWBC hosts a popular regional pickleball tournament in spring, which is a draw for players from abroad to come out and compete.

“Many other sporting organizations are starting to see the value of adding pickleball to their venues. Indoor and outdoor tennis clubs are a good candidate for adding pickleball to help support their facilities and courts. Any club with a suitably-sized gym should be thinking about adding it to fill unused court times.”


We agree! To our readers looking to expand pickleball offerings in their area, we hope you’ll keep this advice in mind and push local community centers and other facilities to bring our favorite sport to the masses.

Thanks to Dan for his time and hard work ensuring pickleball is available to players of all ages!

2 Easy Ways to Organize Paddles for Open Play

Are your pickleball courts so busy that you have to wait your turn to play? If so, how do you remember who’s next in line?

It seems many players resort to lying out their paddles on a bench, moving them along a chain link fence (what happens if they fall? yikes!) or simply using a sign-up form. But surely there’s got to be a better way?

We currently know of two options that offer a simple, flexible system for storing paddles and maintaining order during open play. Which one sounds most enticing to you?

Paddle Saddle

Paddle Saddle

The Paddle Saddle is a convenient paddle holder that can be attached to a chain link fence. Several tubes provide space for paddles, while a “Next” marker slides along the outer support to show which player is waiting in the wings for a game.

It’s a smart way to make sure your paddles are protected and accessible while ensuring you know who’s up next. The only downside is that you do have to remember to slide the “Next” marker, but no doubt the upcoming players will make sure everyone knows where it should be…

You can find the Paddle Saddle at this site.

Lone Jones' Rotating Paddle Holder

(Image Credit: Jennifer Lucore)

Lon Jones’ Rotating Paddle Holder

This elegant paddle holder was created for the Castle Creek Pickleball Club at Escondido, CA. The nice thing about this setup is that it doesn’t require manual movement at all. You just place your paddles in the holder, and gravity pulls the next paddles into the “waiting” position once equipment is removed.

Lon eventually wants to create a universal mount, stronger sealed bearings and a more compact design, but we think it’s pretty impressive as is! Unfortunately it looks like Lon isn’t selling these via a store yet, but you can get in touch with the Castle Creek group to see if he might be willing to make more.


How does your group keep everyone organized when there are players waiting for games?

Oyster Bay Pickleball Club Transitions from Tennis to Pickleball Courts

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this business, it’s that when a determined group of picklers get together, they can make anything happen. In Dowell, Maryland the Oyster Bay Pickleball Club has completed their project of transitioning several unused tennis courts to 4 much-loved pickleball courts.

Oyster Bay courts before...

Oyster Bay courts before…

We were particularly flattered to hear that they completed this giant undertaking using supplies and equipment from PickleballCentral!

Cecelia Rasmussen, Chairman of the OBP Club, decided to move forward with the project when PBC ran a clearance sale on Wilson equipment.

“We used our PBC club discount code for additional savings and got a great deal. As always, PBC made it easy for us to make the decision. Our courts look beautiful and professional grade.”

And the lovely Oyster Bay courts after!

And the lovely courts after!

Rasmussen indicated that there were hundreds of labor hours put in from the volunteer residents at Oyster Bay. Trench digging, crack filling, post hole installation, painting, lining… all the ingredients needed to accomplish the stunning end result.

Congratulations to OBP on their success and truly incredible courts! They sound like a fun group for many reasons. Check out our post about their epic superhero tournament if you haven’t seen it already.

If you or any players you know may be interested in our Club Rewards Program, be sure to read more here and either email or give us a call to start getting discounts on your equipment, too.

Give a Special Gift with Custom Pickleball Paddles

Have you ever thought it would be fun to design your own paddle? Or create a unique paddle for a friend or family member? The good news is—it’s entirely possible to do this!  While we currently don’t have the ability to make custom paddles here at PickleballCentral, some of the manufacturers we work with do offer this service at a fairly affordable price.

Custom paddles make wonderful gifts since you can use pictures or other personal images on the paddle’s face, giving the giftee a little reminder of you whenever they play. They also serve as great prizes if you want to offer a truly unique reward for members of your local club during tournaments. You can use your team’s logo or another clever image to make your prize paddle stand out.

Pro-Lite Custom Paddles

An example of Pro-Lite’s custom paddles

The first and probably easiest way to get a custom paddle is through Pro-Lite. You can use your own image on their popular graphite Blaster paddle through the order form here. You can even select what type of grip you’d like them to apply and put different pictures on each side of the face.

The other option is going through Manta. While they don’t have an order form on their site, you should be able to contact them and request pricing. They have stated that they currently do custom images on their Extreme and Custom Pro series, however you must make a minimum purchase of 12 paddles for them to do this. As such, it makes more sense going through Manta if you want matching paddles for clubs or other communities.

POP Paddle Designs

Different variations of POP designs

We’re pretty sure POP offers custom paddles too. There are limited designs to choose from, but you have more flexibility when it comes to selecting the materials and weight. You can contact the owner, Brian Jensen, at brian@performanceonepaddle.com.

And what if you want a paddle with its standard design and slight modifications, such as a smaller grip size? Manufacturers are usually pretty accommodating with such requests. We ask that customers give the manufacturer a call directly, as sometimes they will be able to shave down a grip or modify a paddle’s weight to better meet a player’s needs.

Would you ever use a custom-designed paddle? What image(s) would you like to see on it?

How to Set Up a Local Pickleball Club

Pickleball is a social sport by nature, and since many players’ favorite type of game is doubles, more people equals more fun. But what can you do if there aren’t many picklers in your area, or if pickleball itself is relatively unknown?

We recommend starting your own pickleball club. This can seem daunting at first, but the truth is it can be as simple as contacting a nearby rec center or finding an old tennis court. You’ll end up with more people to play with, and a whole new group of pickleball fanatics will be born. It’s win-win!

Pickleball is highly addictive, and if you can get even a few people on the courts, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get return visitors bringing their friends. Let’s walk through how you can go about setting up your own pickleball paradise.

Find a Place to Play Pickleball

The first step is finding a suitable place to play. Choosing a centralized location in your city is always a plus, as it will make your club more accessible to visitors. If you know of a nearby rec center, park or other public facility where there are already tennis courts then that’s a plus, as you can fit 4 pickleball courts within 1 tennis court. There are detailed instructions on how to utilize a tennis court for pickleball here. Doubles badminton courts are the same size as those used in pickleball as well.

Warehouse Pickleball Court

Our court is in the warehouse, but the net gets moved around depending on how many boxes are present…

If you can find a location with pre-established courts, you’ll need to ask the owner or coordinator of the facility if it would be possible to allow a time for pickleball drop-ins to play, and if it’s okay to use court tape or temporary markers on the ground to establish boundary lines. Another useful tool is a net adjuster so you can lower tennis or badminton nets to the appropriate height of 34”.

Of course, the most accessible place to play is the court you build yourself! If you have the space, you can always install your own court using our Wilson posts or set things up on the go using a portable net system. We also know about plenty of communities that have lobbied to get public pickleball courts installed with great success.

Choose the Right Equipment

Once you have a court, the next step is to ensure your members have equipment. It’s great if people can bring their own paddles and balls, however if you’re starting from scratch, there’s a possibility most of your members will be newbies. It doesn’t hurt to have extras on hand for anyone curious about the game either, since most people end up investing in better paddles down the line.

The most affordable type of paddles are wood, so it’s possible to buy several without breaking the bank. However, if you want potential members to get a real sense of what a “good” pickleball paddle plays like, buying a couple low cost composite paddles (which will be cheaper if they’re gently used) will be your best bet.

Find Members for Your Pickleball Club

So how do you go about finding members? A good place to start is to look at nearby USAPA members and other clubs in your area by going to USAPA.org. Not only will they be able to offer advice on getting up your club set up, but some members might find it convenient to visit your location.

You can also build interest by advertising at recreation centers, senior communities, talking with friends and otherwise sharing it along the grapevine. Word tends to spread naturally once you find a few people to start, as members get their friends and family involved. Offering free lessons is the best way to get newcomers to the courts, otherwise they may feel out of their depth. You don’t have to be a professional to share your love and general knowledge of the game.

Pickleball teacher

A pickleball coach sharing the game from Pickleball Canada

The USAPA provides a lot of materials that you can use to supply players with information. At PickleballCentral we include Coach Mo’s Strategy Guide in most of the packages we send out, so that’s another good tool to have in your arsenal. These sort of “take home” packages are a plus, but we find that simply getting people onto the court is the quickest way to rack up interest.

Another tried-and-true way to get attention and make sure everyone in your area knows about pickleball is to contact the local media. Even if only a few members are in attendance, news outlets are eager to feature new initiatives, and the increase in exposure can really help your club thrive.

Keep People in the Loop

A simple way to maintain ongoing engagement is to create a website so people can view your schedule. This makes it easier to get information to members and beginners alike. Setting up a website is quite simple these days. You can sign up for free at WordPress to get access to the same user-friendly platform we use to share our blog. You should also get yourself listed on the USAPA’s Communities and Clubs list and their Places to Play section—it’s free!

Enjoy the Best Savings

Lastly, be sure to sign up with our Club Rewards program. There’s no fee to get started, and you and your club members will receive a special code to get 5% off every order at PickleballCentral. Another 5% of your order total will go into a savings account which will accrue funds based on all your members’ purchases throughout the year. At the start of the New Year, we’ll send you a gift certificate code for the money you saved to be spent on new supplies and gear.

US Open Courts

A look at the extensive U.S. Open courts

The USAPA says that in 2015 an average of nearly 20 new locations to play pickleball are being established weekly: That’s over 1,040 courts a year! With the sport experiencing such massive growth you can bet that starting your own club will allow you to get the most out of the pickleball movement.

Pickleball “All Heart” Award: Dick Howell and the Heart O’ The Hills Camp for Girls

i-love-pickleball1

This is a pickleball love story.  Enjoy what Dick Howell has to say about the history and development of pickleball at a girls camp in Hunt, Texas.

In 1976, Heart O’ The Hills Camp for Girls in Hunt, Texas, constructed a dedicated Pickleball Court with equipment brought to the Heart O’ The Hills Camp by a man from Atlanta.  Most of the equipment was lost in an ensuing flood and no one knew how to replace it.

Heart O Hills 1

Heart O Hills Pickleball Court

It became a badminton court. Then it was used as a volleyball, dodgeball and basketball court, as well as a staging area for many tribal activities. But, it has always been called the pickleball court. I confessed to many a parent that I had no idea what the game of pickleball was, only that it was a court game.

 Then, one day I played pickleball.  

 Two years ago I started up pickleball again at the Heart O’ The Hills Girls Camp as an elective activity. All of the girls that try it, love it. This year I am expecting 25 girls for a four-week session. It has been a great experience,  a learning experience for me. Success in anything boosts confidence and self-esteem, and I do not know of another sports where success comes so suddenly.

Heart O Hills 2

First Class of Pickleball 6-8 year old girls at Camp Heart O’ The Hills

Thank you so much, Dick Howell, for sharing this story of pickleball lost and pickleball found at the Heart O’ The Hills Girls Camp.   You definitely have earned the PickleballCentral “All Heart” Award.  Congratulations!

Sequim Picklers

It takes a village to grow a pickleball community.  Sequim Picklers is one such community that is growing because folks like Jack Olmsted, Video Blogger and Ben Sanders, USAPA Ambassador work hard to get the word out about pickleball in their community.  Enjoy!

Transcript

Ben: Hi my name is Ben Sanders. I’m director of court operations for the Sequim Picklers in Sequim, Washington. We are presently at the Boys and Girls Club which we rent on weekends for indoor play when it it raining, which it is going now. So we have an indoor venue. We have a hundred and thirty-four members at present. We would love to have anyone in the Sequim area, even on the peninsula. We have several people from Port Townsend, numerous people from Port Angeles that come to play with us and our members of our club. And we’d love to have you.

We play Pickleball. You see the venue behind me. We end up with between 25 and 35 people on Saturdays and Sundays each day. And then we play seven days a week. That is Monday Wednesday and Friday at 9 o’clock in the morning till noon. Tuesdays and Thursdays from three o’clock until five. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays has at three o’clock also has free instruction for anyone member or non-member to come and learn how to play the game of pickleball.

Jack: How do you become a member?

You can come any of our events seven days a week Monday though Friday, plus Saturdays and Sundays indoor at the Boys/Girls Club and at any of those events will have cards ready for you to sign for membership. Membership is not very expensive, it is a little over buck a month. So, you’re at fifteen dollars a year for membership. We will then explain what we are doing. We are in the process right now of building our own courts that will be at Kerry Park near the dog park. We are looking to build 12 courts ourselves. The city has chipped in we have raised well over $116,000 ourselves. So that we can end up with a state-of-the- art facility for members to play at and we will also open it up to the public.

Jack: What is the goal? How much do you have to raise?

Ben: Our goal is $250,000. It has to be built with union and professionally. We have to go by the City codes and so it’s a little more expensive. But, we have a goal of $260,000. We’ve raised, I believe $116,000. So, we are well on our way to get the courts we want built. We’re all trying to do it sooner than later because we are running of years.

Jack: You are running out of years because of your age bracket?

Ben: Because our age bracket. We have a lot of young players. Our president is a young player. He came from the tennis group but he’s given up tennis and has taken on pickleball. Doug Hastings is the president of  the board. I ams also a three year board member and also an ambassador to the United States Pickleball Association. So, anytime you have any questions or the instruction, set-up or practice or anything you can give me a call. My name is Ken Sanders my number is locally 360) 808-1024 We play on Tuesdays and Thursdays even when I’m not here I have a group of instructors that come in and continue that instruction once you start it on Tuesdays and Thursdays at three o’clock on either of those two days. It is basic instruction, intermediate instruction and even advanced practice where you can work on lobs or you can work can overhead slams and all aspects of the game.

Jack: Can you give us a little tip? You got a paddle and a ball in your hand right now. Can you give us a little pickle ball tip?

Ben: The tip is that most people are afraid that when they stand at the kitchen line which is right in front of the net they afraid that when the ball comes at them they will bet hit. So, if you simply take your paddle hold it nice and loose when you are at the kitchen line put your thumb on the back, like this, and then hold it here and touch the paddle and anything that comes at you just punch the ball forward. Punch the ball forward. Anything that comes right at you – your face or your chest or over here all you do is punch the ball forward. You don’t have to be afraid of anything coming right at you because you are all prepared to defend it and it gets back over the net and extends the game and become a pickleball player.

If you would like to see the whole interview, you can find it on the Seattle PI website:

http://blog.seattlepi.com/videoblogging/2016/03/07/sequim-pickleball/