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Where to play America’s fastest growing new sport in Greater Manchester




A new sport has swept across America and is now making a name for itself in the UK. Now with over 30 sessions and clubs in the Northwest, pickleball is here to stay.

The game is traditionally played on a badminton court with hard rackets and a plastic ball. Its popularity is mainly due to the fact that it is accessible to all ages and does not require much equipment.

In the northwest, there is a monthly doubles competition with nine divisions. This is a fairly new initiative for the sport and has more than doubled in less than 12 months.

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The sport continues to grow, with Pickleball England having over 2,000 players, although the actual number of casual players is widely believed to be over 4,000. Last year, the BBC reported more than 4 million players worldwide, citing the pandemic as a contributing factor to the increased interest in the sport.

In Greater Manchester there are currently seven pickleball clubs registered with pickleball England, one in Salford, Stockport, Rochdale, Leigh, Urmston and two in Bolton.

Robert Rosenfield discovered Pickleball on a cruise and despite not being instructed on how to play, he picked up the game very quickly and couldn’t wait to play again as soon as he got home.

Robert Rosenfield and his team in Bolton
Robert Rosenfield and his team in Bolton
(Image: included)

On his return, Robert immediately started playing at his nearest club, which happened to be in Wigan. However, he has since started his own club in Bolton.

His club currently plays at Smithill’s school on Saturdays between 11am and 1pm. They only have two courts, but are happy to welcome new members.

He explained how and why he fell in love with the sport saying I was going on a cruise and they had this game so me, my wife and the kids thought we would give it a try. There was no one there to explain the rules, but I really got a feel for it and thought, I think this is great, this is great.

So when I came back I looked for the nearest club that played it, I found one in Wigan and I fell in love with it and I’ve been playing it ever since.

It’s the biggest growing sport in America, it’s huge there, they have jobs everywhere. It’s not that well known here yet, but it’s starting to get a bit of imitation.

He added: “I want to expand it if I can. It’s a really good social one, there are serious players in every sport, but the great thing is it’s a sport for everyone. We have 70-year-olds, 80-year-olds who play in the competition.

Best thing to do is find your local club, everyone is very welcoming and then get in touch with the club and they will be happy to advise you on how to get involved. It’s a really good sport to play and a social sport.

The story of Pickleball dates back to 1965 when two fathers, Joel Pritchard and Bob Bell, were vacationing on Bainbridge Island, just off the coast of Seattle, America, and accidentally invented the game to curb boredom. They tried a racket ball game on a badminton court with table tennis bats and the dog ball, which was called Pickle.

The sport can be played indoors or outdoors, weather permitting
The sport can be played indoors or outdoors, weather permitting
(Image: included)

However, others argue that the name came from Joels’ wife, Joan, who said the combination of different parts from other games reminded her of the crews of the pickle boats, or small wooden ferries whose crews were often chosen last.

Elaine Shallcross, North West Pickleball England Regional Director, explained how she discovered the game in Thailand, played it all over the world and decided to bring the game to the North West starting in Burnley.

She said: The escalation over the past 12 months, especially since Covid in many ways, is staggering. We’ve had great exposure.

Because of its name, I don’t think pickleball is considered a serious sport, to be honest, but now people are realizing that it is a valuable sport in its own right, even if it is a derivative of earlier sports such as tennis, badminton and table tennis.

We can barely meet the demand at the moment. It grows so fast.

There are many people who may have played tennis or other racket sports who could no longer maintain the physicality of those sports, so pickleball became a fantastic compromise for these people.

Elaine was introduced to pickleball while on vacation in Thailand, where she met an ex-international badminton player who had started playing pickleball in Florida. Elaine started playing in Thailand and has since played in tournaments in Madrid, Kiev and India.

Returning to the North West, Elaine was determined to make a name for herself for the sport in the UK and in 2015 she took the idea of ​​the game to Burnley City Council. She explained: I went to Burnley City Council where I used to work, I was head of sports and leisure at Burnley and said I have this great game and you should try it. We stopped it in a 50 plus morning for multi activities and it snowed from there.

Pickleball is a sport for everyone
Pickleball is a sport for everyone
(Image: included)

We had two sessions during the day and a club in the evening and then we started again at Leigh Sports Village. In the North West, even before Pickleball England existed, I had already taken it on board to become a local ambassador and get as many clubs as possible, so we were in Clitheroe, Longridge and Chorley, Bolton and Wigan.

After that the game itself became more organized, but my first tournament was in Madrid because there was no tournament in England then. It grows knots in other countries, as well as here in England.

One of the problems that pickleball has faced is finding facilities. It is a very versatile sport and can be played on both tennis and badminton courts, both indoors and outdoors.

However, many sports facilities are already fully booked with more well-known sports and the weather in the North West is not to be trusted.

You can play outside, but what is usually disadvantageous in this country is the weather. We don’t always have the best weather. So organizing something like a special event is very difficult because there is no alternative.

If we held an open pickleball championship in Manchester at any tennis club, and absolutely threw it away that weekend, you can’t just pick it up and move to a sports center because there is availability.

Despite these concerns, Elaine has also noticed an increase in tennis clubs taking an interest in the sport, noting that it is open to all ages.

She added: A very recent thing, to be fair, is that the relationship between tennis facilities and clubs and pickleball has improved rapidly. At some point I would say that it would almost never have been the case that the two will meet.

Now there is a realization that pickleball can help, especially young people, learn some of the basic motor skills needed for tennis and the transition to tennis.




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