This weekend at the Invista Centre, over 500 athletes will assemble in Kingston for Canada’s largest ever pickleball tournament – the Canadian National Pickleball Championships. The event features dozens of pickleball matches on 28 courts in at least 13 categories divided between singles, doubles, and age groups.
Pickleball is considered the fastest growing sport in North America. It’s a racket sport, often referred to as a combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton. Though it was invented over 50 years ago in the US, the sport has seen tremendous growth in the last several years. In Canada alone there an estimated 60,000 players, and while the sport has a reputation of being played mostly by seniors, that trend is changing.
“The largest portion of the players are still over 60, but it’s starting to trend younger,” said Ryan Hanes, president of the Kingston Pickleball Club and the director of this weekend’s tournament. “Most of the top players in the world are 25 or under. We’re seeing a lot of college tennis players coming into pickleball and doing amazing. Overall, the sport is still driven by the senior population, but we are getting younger players.”
Canada’s top male and female players, Steve Deakin, 45, and Catherine Parenteau, 25, will be competing in this weekend’s tournament. Parenteau opened the tournament yesterday with two pickleball workshops.
“We’re going to see some of the best players in the world,” said Hanes. “The best male and female players in the country are here. The games we’ll see will be at a very high level.”
The Kingston Pickleball Club is not quite three years old, and they are already undertaking a massive project with the tournament.
“We have a super active volunteer base,” said Hanes. “This is the biggest tournament ever run in Canada. There are 531 players coming from all over Canada and the US.”
The Kingston Pickleball Club has over 500 members and provides resources, leagues, and clinics to Kingston-area pickleball enthusiasts.
“We have a very active club, and we’re less than three years old,” said Hanes. “Our biggest challenge is finding a permanent place to play. We’re waiting on the City of Kingston to catch up with a lot of other municipalities and help us with court space so we can run more of these tournaments. We could use a little more support and bring more and more people to Kingston to play and watch pickleball.”
Admission to the tournament is free, and according to Hanes, spectators who aren’t familiar with the sport should be able to pick it up quickly.
“There are a couple of intricacies around the no-volley zone,” said Hanes. “You can’t go right up to the net like in volleyball or tennis, you have to be back behind the service line. You’ll still see lots of crazy fast action.”
Hanes is hopeful that tournament will attract even more players, regardless of their athletic abilities.
“There is a lot of hand-eye coordination involved, and a lot of touch,” he said. “And it doesn’t have as much impact as tennis or squash. You don’t have to cover long distances quickly, but if you’re smart with your footwork and smart with your shot, you don’t need to be super fit. But it can help.”
For more information on the tournament, visit the Kingston Pickleball Club’s Facebook group.