Ribble Valley woman who brought pickleball to Burnley proud of growth at English Nationals in Bolton
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The Ribble Valley 68-year-old found a love of the racquet sport on her travels in Thailand and could not resist the urge to grow it back in the UK when she returned in the winter a decade ago.
Shallcross, working for Burnley Borough Council at the time, made it her mission to create a pickleball movement across Lancashire, and at the 2023 English Nationals in Bolton, the trailblazer could not be prouder to see her efforts come to fruition.
“When I played during the winter in Thailand, I used to come back in summer for six months and I totally missed the game,” she said.
“It was depressing because we couldn’t play anywhere. There was only a couple of places in the UK at the time, which would be hours of driving.
“I set about rolling my sleeves up and developing pickleball in the North West.
“I went to Burnley Borough Council which was my previous authority I worked for before retirement and said, 'You’ve got to introduce it and bring it into your sports and your healthy lifestyle programmes.'
“It soon snowballed throughout the North West and the rest of the country.”
Over the past year, pickleball has seen a meteoric rise in the UK due to its inclusive and accessible nature, with an estimated 12,000 regular players and over 450 venues offering the sport across the country.
There are now 682 athletes attending the National Championships at the Bolton Arena, up from 430 at the 2022 event.
Shallcross’ tireless work earned her a British Empire Medal in the King’s Birthday Honours List earlier in the year and, on the first day of the English Nationals 2023 in Bolton, she cannot wait to advance the game even further.
“I got a letter from the Cabinet Office and by the time I got to the second line I was almost in floods of tears because it was saying I’d been nominated for a British Empire Medal,” she added.
“It’s also wonderful for the sport because Pickleball is still evolving and had never been recognised outside of its own arena.
“The aim is for people to go away from Bolton having had a wonderful time, play some excellent pickleball and come back, bringing other people to the game.”
English Nationals takes place at Bolton Arena from Thursday October 26th to Sunday October 29th. This year’s English Nationals is sponsored by Skechers, Franklin, Scan and UK Pickleball Shop, Play will commence from 9am each day. Head to https://www.pickleballengland.org/ to find out more or to find your nearest place to play.
Pickleball is a racket or paddle sport in which two (singles) or four (doubles) players hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball with paddles over a 34-inch-high (0.86 m) net until one side is unable to return the ball or commits an infraction.
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the USA and is now enjoying a similarly meteoric rise in the UK.