Discover pickleball – one of Canberra’s fastest-growing sports

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Four players play a game of pickleball - which looks like tennis - on an outside court.

There are around 300 pickleballers in Canberra.

Have you heard of pickleball? It’s more than just a cute name. The sport is gaining popularity around the globe – and Canberra is no exception.

Combining elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball is a favourite with players of all ages and abilities.

Played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court, pickleball is just one of the lesser-known sports played at ACT Government venues including Belconnen Community Centre and Namadgi School in Kambah.

Using a perforated plastic ball and paddles that are about twice the size of table tennis bats, it’s a game for two or four players.  It can be played either socially or competitively, requiring little more than some hand-eye coordination and plenty of enthusiasm.

Stuart Campbell, President of Pickleball ACT, has been passionate about the sport since 2018.

He describes it as: “Fun! Satisfying! Addictive!” and says there are around 300 pickleballers in Canberra, with that number increasing rapidly.

“In the last three months Pickleball ACT had over 1400 attendances at our sessions. There’s a further group of social players in Erindale who’ve been around for a while and two new groups – Pickleball Canberra and the Canberra Pickleball League – commenced operating recently. Both have generated even more pickleball interest in the region,” he said.

Meeting demand is a challenge. “We have 10 sessions per week, run over seven days, at five different venues. These are almost always fully booked. We just can’t keep up,” Stuart said.

Most interest in the sport is generated by word of mouth.

“On top of that, in recent years the professional leagues have settled on entertaining formats and that brought in high profile team investors such as Nick Kyrgios, LeBron James, Naomi Osaka and Tom Brady, who all recognised pickleball’s attraction and growth potential.

“Pickleball has also enjoyed quite a deal of media exposure though celebrity pickleball fanatics such as George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Phelps and Andre Agassi,” he said.

Pickleball ACT’s vision is for the sport to thrive in Canberra.

“A club in every suburb! We aspire to have players from juniors through to seniors, social play and competitions, casual hitters to very high level. We see great potential for the broadest levels of inclusivity. We dream of having some dedicated courts in Canberra,” he said.

“Thus far it’s been an all-volunteer effort. Nick Kyrgios reached out to us to offer support, which we really appreciated. It would be great to have additional prominent locals to champion pickleball.”

The sport has come a long way from its 1965 origins as an American kids’ game.

And with more and more people perfecting their lofty serves, it seems the sky really is the limit.

A man holds a racquet and bends low to hit a ball. He is playing on an indoor court. Stuart Campbell, President, Pickleball ACT

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