One of the US' fastest-growing sports finds UK home in Burnley

Embracing a sport that has taken off in North America, Burnley is fast becoming the UK's go-to destination for a ball game combining tennis, badminton, and table tennis which is sweeping the country.
Burnley Pickleballers between games at Spirit of Sport, Blessed Trinity.Burnley Pickleballers between games at Spirit of Sport, Blessed Trinity.
Burnley Pickleballers between games at Spirit of Sport, Blessed Trinity.

Called Pickleball after Pickles the family dog - who loved chasing the balls - the sport was dreamt up on Bainbridge Island in America back in 1965 to entertain kids with “nothing to do" on family holidays, and involved four families playing together on a badminton court, lowering the net to 36 inches, and using table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball.

"Tell anyone you are off to play Pickleball and you get raised eyebrows and the question “what on earth is that?” said Maureen Smith of the Burnley Pickleballers. "The answer is: Pickleball is a fantastic, fun, friendly game for all ages."

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Little did the original creators of the game know, but their new game would capture the interest of many, and from that very humble beginning, Pickleball has spread throughout the United States and is the fastest growing sport in North America.

And now the game is taking off in the UK, with Burnley one of the go-to destinations to play the game after Burnley Leisure members and staff became the first in the country to complete a Pickleball training course in July 2015.

June Walker, a qualified Pickleball instructor, flew in from Florida to teach people how to play Pickleball properly and how to coach others to do the same, with Pickleball now played as part of the Active Adults programme at St Peter’s Leisure Centre.

"The Burnley Pickleballers group has begun to hold weekly sessions at Spirit of Sport at Blessed Trinity RC High School on Monday nights from seven to nine pm," explained Maureen. "It is open to all ages and abilities and is already attracting players from far and wide.

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"There is much friendly banter throughout the informal doubles matches," she added. "The Pickleballers are the most agreeable and cheerful sportsmen and women; delighted to win for themselves and their partner but the first to praise an opponent’s winning shot."

On top of the fun to be had, guidance from a Pickleball expert is also on hand whenever Elaine Shallcross - the Pickleball Ambassador for Lancashire and Greater Manchester who has won countless tournaments all over the world - drops into the sessions.

"Pickleball is a great sport for all ages," Maureen said. "It’s easy to learn, full of heart, creates friendships, and is great fun to play for everyone from beginners to experienced players. Paddles and balls are provided and newcomers will be shown how to play."

Those interested can contact John Nuttall on 07973 421 192 or Maureen Smith on 01282 433 706 or via email on [email protected] for further information and a warm welcome to the world of Pickleball.

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